GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY - A well-known Greenville lawyer has been found not guilty of intimidating a state witness in a child abuse case.
The jury announced just before 2:50 p.m. Thursday that David Sutton is not guilty of intimidating a witness and not guilty of obstruction of justice.
Sutton was charged in July 2013 after investigators accused him of threatening a sheriff's detective, who was a witness in a child abuse case involving the wife of former Simpson Police Chief John Waters.
Investigators released the voice mail that Sutton left for the detective:
"I don't know what you're doing. You obviously don't know what the hell you're doing. So I'm just going to whoop your ass real bad next week unless you get your ass down there and get this case dismissed. Do you job and have some sense.
But Sutton, who represented himself, said he was doing his job as a lawyer-- fighting for his client.
"I was doing what a lawyer does. I used some crude language," Sutton said.
Sutton said he was defending his friend, Karen Waters, who was accused of using a skillet to hit her daughter. Detective Nikki Dolenti was the investigator assigned to the case. The prosecution claimed Det. Dolenti spoke to Waters, who admitted to the crime.
But Sutton argued that the Department of Social Services said there was no abuse, which was why he left the message on Dolenti's phone to try to get the case dropped.
Sutton claimed the prosecution is "trying to make [him] a convicted felon."
"There's a reason I'm here, and it's not that phone call," Sutton said.
After Sutton finished his closing argument at about 10 a.m. Thursday, the prosecution began their closing argument. The prosecution said Sutton contacted two district attorneys to try to get the case dropped.
According to the prosecution, after the two attorneys told Sutton they would not drop the case, Sutton contacted Dolenti.
The prosecution tried to use against Sutton his statement that he "chooses his words for purpose and for effect."
"[Sutton was] trying to bully, throw his weight around Detective Dolenti because he can. He thinks he can get away with it," prosecutor Steven Arbogast told the jury.
Arbogast slammed his foot as he told the jury to use their "common sense when you listen to that message." Arbogast then played the message again.
After the not guilty verdicts, Sutton said, "everything was riding on it and I felt like I knew what I wanted to say better than anyone else. And I felt like they needed to hear it from me."
Sutton will have a North Carolina Bar hearing where he will answer for the same charges.
"I hope that the charges will be dropped because it isn't just the judge throwing it out, it's a not guilty, it's the jurors saying that it didn't happen," he said.
Sutton also has to face a resisting charge after an alleged disturbance in the Pitt County Courthouse last November. Deputies say Sutton tried to enter the courthouse, refused commands by a deputy to stop and refused to be handcuffed.
Sutton's law office is located on Regency Boulevard in Greenville. According to his website, he has more than 15 years of experience as a lawyer.
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