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Criminal Practice – Obstruction of Justice – Deputy Sheriff – Drug Investigation – Former Colleague – Warning

State v. Pollard. (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-16-0002, 14 pp.) (Barbara Jackson, J.) Appealed from Pitt County Superior Court. (William R. Pittman, J.) N.C. App. Unpub. Click here for the full text of the opinion.

Holding: Even though the suspect’s boyfriend told her she had bought cocaine for a police informant, since the defendant-deputy sheriff had already told the suspect that she was the target of a drug investigation, and since the suspect stopped dealing with the informant immediately after the deputy talked to the suspect, the boyfriend’s warning did not negate the deputy’s obstruction of justice.

No error in defendant’s conviction of felonious obstruction of justice and willfully failing to discharge duties. We dismiss defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel without prejudice to her raising the issue in a motion for appropriate relief.

In addition to the suspect’s testimony, testimony by other prosecution witnesses established that, as a result of defendant’s “blowing” the informant’s cover, the investigation into the drug organization, of which the suspect and another individual were targets, “terminated.” Detective Head testified that the goal of the investigation in which the informant was assisting was “to climb the ladder, so to speak, to get inside of [the] organization. …”

At the time of defendant’s conversation with the suspect, the investigation was in its early stages. When asked what effect the informant’s cover being blown had on the investigation, Detective Head replied, “It terminated the investigation. Gina Wooten, the target of the investigation, would no longer deal with our informant, which pretty much stopped our investigation.”

The testimony of either Detective Head or the suspect, standing alone, is relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion that defendant intentionally prevented, obstructed, impeded, or hindered justice. Therefore, it constitutes substantial evidence. Accordingly, the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Even though an SBI agent testified as to statements made by other prosecution witnesses, since defendant had challenged the credibility of such witnesses, the SBI agent’s testimony was properly admitted for corroborative purposes.

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