Johnston magistrate not guilty of threatening suspect
Posted February 21, 2012
Smithfield, N.C. — A Johnston County magistrate was acquitted Tuesday of threatening to shoot and kill a crime suspect last fall.
The State Bureau of Investigation charged Sam Blake Jr. last month with communicating threats, and authorities said the incident occurred while he was on duty in October.
David Pearson said that, when Blake learned he had been arrested in his neighborhood on drug possession charges, Blake threatened his life.
"He said that was his street, and if he caught me over there or on his property, that he would shoot and kill me," Pearson testified during a brief trial Tuesday. "I asked him if that was a threat, and he said, 'No, that's a promise.'"
Pearson said he fears Blake so much that he now avoids visiting relatives in that neighborhood.
"He is a law enforcement officer. To me, I figure he can carry a gun around, and he's probably been trained with that weapon," he said of Blake.
Jeffery Johnson, a Johnston County detention officer, testified that he heard Blake threaten Pearson.
Blake said he never threatened to kill Pearson. He said he only warned him that neighbors in the community where he was arrested were concerned about a rise in crime.
"I said they may start shooting because they put up with it for a long time now," he said. "I said, as a citizen, I may shoot to protect my property as well. He said, 'Is that a threat?' and I said, 'No, I promise I may shoot to protect my property.'"
The District Court judge who heard the case said there were too many conflicting stories to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt that Blake was guilty.
Blake has remained on the job despite the charge and a string of documented complaints against him over the last 10 years.
Law enforcement officers, co-workers and citizens have accused Blake of lacking professionalism, behaving rudely and publicly calling other magistrates racist in complaints dating back to 2002.
A woman recently petitioned for Blake to lose his job over making rude comments, but a judge denied that.