News: CJ Exclusives

Sitton, Former Perdue Campaign Worker and Employee, Pleads Not Guilty

Morganton attorney charged with two felonies in probe of governor's campaign funds

Julia Leigh Sitton, a Morganton attorney and the former head of Gov. Bev Perdue’s western North Carolina office, this morning entered a plea of not guilty to two felony charges for violations of campaign laws arising from the time she worked on the 2008 Perdue campaign.

Sitton, who’s also known as Juleigh Sitton, entered the plea at Wake County Superior Court through her attorney Joseph Zeszotarski.

Sitton, attorney Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs, and former Perdue campaign finance director Peter Reichard were indicted on felony charges by a Wake County grand jury Nov. 28.

Reichard was charged with funneling $32,000 from Morganton businessman Charles M. Fulenwider through a business Reichard owns to pay a portion of Sitton’s salary with the Perdue campaign. Fulenwider already had given the maximum $8,000 allowed during the primary and general election cycles.

Reichard entered an Alford plea in January, paying a fine and accepting two years probation. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not plead guilty but acknowledges that the evidence suggests he is likely to lose before a jury.

Zeszotarski told Carolina Journal that the plea filed with the court was identical to the document (PDF) filed last week by Stubbs, a New Bern attorney and longtime friend of Perdue who was charged with felonies in a separate incident involving flights for the governor’s 2008 campaign.

Zeszotarski also said he was joining Stubbs’ defense team.

Stubbs, a registered Republican and longtime donor who has given primarily to GOP candidates, is accused of funneling $28,000 through his law firm to pay for aircraft to fly Perdue to campaign events during 2007 and 2008. The free flights were not reported on campaign finance reports, resulting in a number of campaign finance law violations. 

The Stubbs legal team has until Wednesday to file any motions with with court. Stubbs has a March 12 court date scheduled, during which a judge can rule on any motions and could set a trial date.

To read CJ‘s series of articles about the Perdue flight controversy, click here.