RALEIGH – A former aide to Gov. Bev Perdue pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge related to secret salary payments received while working on the Democrat’s campaign.
Morganton lawyer Juleigh Sitton resigned last year as director of the governor’s western office. She had previously served as a paid fundraiser for Perdue’s 2008 campaign.
A second charge against Sitton for campaign finance violations was dismissed Friday as part of her plea agreement with Wake County prosecutors.
Sitton was indicted on felony charges after receiving $32,000 in unreported salary payments from illegal campaign donations. Her lawyer, Joe Zeszotarski, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Former Perdue fundraising chairman Peter Reichard of Greensboro in December accepted criminal responsibility for a felony charge for funneling the secret payments to Sitton through his company.
Willoughby said Sitton and a third defendant, Perdue family friend Trawick H. “Buzzy” Stubbs Jr. of New Bern, had filed legal challenges with the N.C. Court of Appeals challenging the Wake DA’s jurisdiction over the matter. Not knowing how the appeals court might rule on the issue, Willoughby said it made sense for him to make a deal settling the case against Sitton.
By pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, reduced from the felonies with which she was originally charged, allows Sitton to likely retain her law license.
Willoughby said the case with Stubbs is still likely headed to court.
Stubbs is charged with providing more than $28,000 in undisclosed flights on private planes to Perdue as she ran for governor. Stubbs was the law partner of the governor’s deceased first husband.
A fourth defendant, Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton, was charged with a felony in February for allegedly deceiving Perdue’s campaign by hiding the source of money used to pay for a 2007 flight provided to Perdue.
Willoughby has said his investigation found no evidence the governor knew of the illegal acts carried out by her staff and supporters. Perdue, who also denied any wrongdoing, is not running for re-election.