Former assistant DA avoids formal N.C. Bar sanctions
By Tyler Stocks
Thursday, August 8, 2019
A former Pitt County Assistant District Attorney and judicial candidate accused of violating rules of professional conduct avoided formal sanctions, following a ruling on Wednesday afternoon.
Johnston County Judge Thomas Lock ruled that Jarrette Pittman did not intend to misrepresent or deceive the court when he signed off on bond modification forms that were mishandled by defense attorney Johnnie Finch Jr., and that he simply made some errors by not doing his due diligence.
Lock said Pittman was remorseful for his actions and the case was an isolated incident given that Pittman has no prior disciplinary record with the North Carolina Bar. The judge admonished Pittman to be more careful in the future.
The decision came after a three-day trial.
Attorneys Joshua Walthall and Cameron Lee, who represented the North Carolina Bar wanted Pittman to face formal sanctions and also reimburse the bar for expenses related to prosecuting the case. Both of those requests were denied.
Walthall and Lee told the court that Pittman intentionally misled the court by having Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster sign off on bond modification forms that were not correct, and that he did not take corrective actions.
The attorneys also alleged that Pittman circumvented the authority of former District Court Judge Mario Perez in filing the forms.
The alleged violations happened on Dec. 6-7.
After the ruling, Pittman was visibly elated by the court's ruling and said he was thankful that the court saw that he made an honest error.
"I wasn't as careful as I needed to be but I certainly didn't do anything with malice or any kind of deceitful motive," Pittman said. "(Lock) was able to see that."
Pittman, who recently began practicing as defense attorney, said his reputation means everything as he tries to promote goodwill in his community.
"(The errors) in no way are an indication of who I am as a person or my attention to detail or how careful I am with very important matters," he said. "I'm relieved. It's one less thing I have to worry about and I'm looking forward to moving on with my life."
Bishop said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case and was glad to see that the judge showed mercy in his ruling.
"Obviously, we would've preferred to have absolute vindication but we're satisfied that the ruling in this case clearly shows that Mr. Pittman did not engage in the kind of intentional misconduct that was initially alleged," Bishop said.
Bishop added that Pittman has learned from the mistakes and will be a better lawyer for having been through the process.
"I think at the end of the day, Mr. Pittman will continue to be a vigorous advocate for the rights of clients he represents," Bishop said. "He's a smart lawyer with a bright future and I hope that he continues to enjoy the support of members of the bar in his community."