Local News

Ex-DAs face off in court during wife-hiring scheme trial

Posted June 4, 2018 6:29 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:43 p.m. EDT

Wallace Bradsher, former district attorney for Person and Caswell counties, makes the opening statement in his fraud trial on June 4, 2018.

— As one former state prosecutor defended himself against criminal charges Monday, a fellow former prosecutor served as the star witness against him.

Wallace Bradsher, who resigned a year ago as district attorney of Person and Caswell counties, faces charges of felony conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretense, aiding and abetting obstruction of justice and failure to discharge duties.

Former Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer took the stand during the first day of Bradsher's trial to lay out their agreement to hire each other's wives to get around state ethics rules against prosecutors hiring relatives.

Blitzer said the two couples met at a pizza parlor in January 2015, shortly after he had taken office, to discuss the plan. He said he made clear that his wife planned to work only until she could finish her nursing studies but said Bradsher had established a "families come first" policy in his office that would give her the flexibility to take care of their son and complete her degree.

Cindy Blitzer wound up working out of her husband's office because there was no space for her at the Caswell County Courthouse and he had a desk and computer she could use. She even worked on a Rockingham County child homicide case that Bradsher had taken over because Craig Blitzer had a conflict with it from his days as a defense attorney.

After a few months, Bradsher snapped up all of the files in that case, however, leaving Cindy Blitzer with nothing to do, Craig Blitzer testified.

When Pam Bradsher decided to leave Blitzer's office in the summer of 2015 for a better-paying job at Person Community College, Wallace Bradsher asked that Blitzer hire Tyler Henderson, who had been working in Bradsher's office.

"There was built in security when Pam Bradsher was working for me and my wife was working for Mr. Bradsher, but once Pam Bradsher resigned, there's not more security for Cindy Blitzer," Blitzer testified. "So, here's Tyler Henderson. Hire Tyler Henderson. Everybody stays where they're at, and nobody's rocking the boat."

Later on, when State Bureau of Investigation agents started looking into Cindy Blitzer's employment, Wallace Bradsher told her to start varying the hours she entered into the state payroll system, "not just eight, eight, eight five days a week," Craig Blitzer said.

The SBI began looking into the work arrangement of Cindy Blitzer and Pam Bradsher in 2016 after an assistant district attorney in Rockingham County and a staffer in Wallace Bradsher's office tipped off authorities that the women had been paid for work they didn't perform.

Investigators determined that Pam Bradsher did the work she was paid to do but that Cindy Blitzer earned $48,000 from her no-show job.

Craig Blitzer resigned in March 2016 and pleaded guilty in July to failure to discharge the duties of his office, a misdemeanor. He hasn't yet been sentenced, but as part of his plea agreement, he repaid the state the $48,000.

His testimony is expected to continue Tuesday.

Bradsher, who is representing himself, spent much of Monday justifying his hiring of his wife, not Cindy Blitzer. Pam Bradsher worked for her husband for four years before the wife-swap arrangement.

"Pam Bradsher is not a nepotism, figurehead wife holding a slot just to get a salary," he told jurors in his opening statement. "She is an essential part of a team."

Margaret Wiggins, a retired human resources chief at the state Administrative Office of the Courts, acknowledged that neither she nor her staff had informed district attorneys, including Bradsher, about the prohibition against employing spouses because they weren't aware of it until a few years ago.