News: CJ Exclusives

Support Groups Vary For Indicted Perdue Team Members

Differing entourages accompany indictees to magistrate's office

When high-powered political operatives get indicted in North Carolina they know they’re going to have to run a gauntlet of media types as they head to the local magistrate to get their mug shots taken.

Questions they may ask themselves include, “So how do I prepare for such an occasion?” “Do I need a support group?” or “Who should I bring?”

The three Perdue campaign team members who were indicted Monday all have now turned themselves in to a Wake County magistrate at the Wake County Public Safety Center. Each was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

All knew they might be greeted by reporters and cameras, and each was. The manner in which they presented themselves to the magistrate and the media could not have been more different.

One approach is to surround oneself with elite public-relations talent. That’s the approach taken by Greensboro businessman Peter Reichard, who turned himself in on Tuesday morning.

His entourage, the largest of the three, included his attorney Hart Miles, public relations specialist Joyce Fitzpatrick, her assistant Leigh Gates, and public affairs consultant Gary Pearce, who worked for Gov. Jim Hunt and also wrote a biography of the former governor.

Another approach is to surround oneself with family. That’s the approach taken by Morganton attorney and former Perdue staffer Juleigh Sitton (also known as Julia Leigh Sitton), who turned herself in Tuesday morning.

Sitton was accompanied by her husband William Wall, her father Claude S. Sitton, a retired Superior Court Judge, and her attorney Joe Zeszotarski.

And another approach is to just show up alone to deal with the unpleasant task of turning oneself into authorities. That’s what New Bern attorney Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs did on Wednesday afternoon. Stubbs and his attorney David Long arrived in separate cars and entered the building together.

The three made their trip to the magistrate’s office as a result of a Wake County grand jury indicting them Monday for illegal activity associated with the financing of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s 2008 campaign for governor.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby launched a criminal investigation of the Perdue Committee in October 2010. The same month Carolina Journal reported that Reichard and Stubbs were the key players involved in obtaining “aircraft providers” for the Perdue Committee.

[Read the complete series of Don Carrington’s stories on the Perdue campaign flights]

Stubbs was charged with obstruction of justice and causing the campaign committee to file false campaign reports. Specifically he exceeded the $4,000 contribution limit by using his law firm to pay for more than $28,000 worth of flights during 2007 and 2008.

Stubbs is a registered Republican and a seasoned political donor who has made over 250 campaign contributions to political candidates or committees over the past two decades. He was a law partner of Perdue’s late former husband and often described as a close friend of Perdue.

Sitton was also charged with obstruction of justice and causing the campaign committee to file false campaign reports. Her indictments state that for 16 months, during 2007 and 2008, she worked full time for the Perdue Committee, but received $2,000 of her $5,000 monthly pay from a source outside the campaign committee.

Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Morganton businessman, funneled the undisclosed pay totaling $32,000 through Reichard’s firm, Tryon Capital Ventures LLC. Sitton was an attorney in private practice before working for the Perdue Committee. In 2009 Perdue named Sitton director of the Western Governor’s Office in Asheville. Sitton resigned from that position in August.

Reichard, who served as the campaign finance director, was charged with obstruction of justice for soliciting and accepting the $32,000 from Fulenwider to pay salary to Sitton that went unreported. Reichard served for six years as president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. Perdue appointed Reichard to the North Carolina Economic Development Board in 2009. Late on Monday, Perdue’s spokesman Mark Johnson told CJ that Reichard is no
longer on the board.

Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.