State v. Bradsher, 2022-NCSC-116, ___ N.C. ___ (Nov. 4, 2022)

In this Wake County case, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision vacating defendant’s conviction, reinstating the conviction for felony obstruction of justice.

At trial, the State introduced evidence showing that in 2015, defendant was the elected district attorney for Caswell and Person Counties (District 9A), and he employed a woman married to the elected district attorney for Rockingham County (District 17A). Defendant did not assign an adequate workload to the wife of the Rockingham County district attorney, and eventually reports were filed with the SBI that she was attending nursing school during work hours and was not taking leave. An SBI agent interviewed defendant, who told the agent that the woman in question was working on special projects and conflict cases.  

Reviewing the case, the Supreme Court found adequate evidence supported the conclusion that defendant’s statements were false, and that “a reasonable jury could conclude that defendant’s false statements . . . obstructed, impeded, and hindered the investigation and public and legal justice.” Slip Op. at 21. Although the question asked by the SBI agent did not clarify if he meant “currently” when asking about projects, the court explained “there was ample evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that he asked defendant that question or questions to that effect and defendant knowingly and intentionally answered falsely.” Id. at 20-21. The court noted that the knowing and willful act to respond falsely supported the jury’s verdict, justifying the reinstatement of the conviction.  

Justice Earls, joined by Justice Morgan, dissented, would have dismissed the conviction “because the State did not produce substantial evidence of actual obstruction.” Id. at 32.