Craig Blitzer, a former Rockingham County district attorney, pleaded guilty in Wake County Superior Court on Monday to playing a part in a scheme that allowed him and a district attorney in a neighboring district to hire each other’s wives and pay them for doing little to no work.
Sentencing was postponed for Blitzer, who resigned in March amid a State Bureau of Investigation probe into the allegations that state money had been misused to carry out the plan.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told Judge Donald Stephens that Blitzer, a Republican, had been cooperating. Freeman said he agreed to continue cooperating with investigators as they looked further into the actions of Wallace Bradsher, former district attorney for Person and Caswell counties who also has been accused of failure to discharge the duties of his office.
“This is not a happy day for anybody,” Freeman said after the hearing. “As DAs, we are elected to uphold the law to try and make a determination between right and wrong on behalf of our communities, and it’s important we uphold the highest ethical standards. And clearly today, by having a sitting DA who has been forced out of office to come in and plead to willfully failing to discharge his duties, it’s a disappointing day.”
Blitzer and his attorney declined to discuss the case after the hearing.
The charges stem from an arrangement that investigators contend the two district attorneys made after Blitzer was elected Rockingtham County district attorney in November 2014. Blitzer served as district attorney from Jan. 1, 2015, until his resignation in March.
Blitzer had been a successful defense attorney, Freeman told Stephens in laying out her case against Blitzer. After Blitzer was elected, he worried about being able to continue to provide for his family financially on a public salary as he had while in private practice, Freeman said.
Bradsher, a Republican, talked with Blitzer around that time about the plan to hire their spouses, Freeman told the judge.
While state ethics rules allow legislators to hire their spouses, district attorneys are prohibited from employing family members.
So the district attorneys decided to try to get around the rule, and the wives swapped jobs.
The SBI probe found that Pam Bradsher did the work she was paid to do by Blitzer. But investigators found that Cindy Blitzer was taking nursing classes at a school in High Point when Bradsher reported that she was on the clock.
Freeman said Blitzer raised questions about what kind of work his wife should be doing while on a trip to a district attorneys conference at the Outer Banks several years ago.
Freeman said Bradsher told Blitzer not to worry about it.
Blitzer has been under public scrutiny since October when Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite confirmed the SBI was investigating the two district attorney offices over allegations that state money was stolen. Crosswhite had ordered the investigation in July 2016 at the recommendation of the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
In January, Debra Halbrook, a former employee in Bradsher’s office, filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that she was fired for reporting the district attorneys to the SBI.
As part of a plea arrangement, Blitzer has agreed to provide information to prosecutors as Bradsher’s case remains unresolved. He also paid $48,000 to the Administrative Office of the Courts, money that was paid to his wife to benefit his family. No charges were filed against the wives.
Freeman said Blitzer could be a key part of the prosecution’s case against Bradsher. He also could be called to testify in Halbrook’s whistleblower lawsuit.
Freeman said Monday that had it not been for the actions of Halbrook, the scheme might not have been revealed to investigators and the larger public.