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Defense: Evidence withheld in ex-deputys trial
Former Forsyth County lawman Pruitt seeks new trial in child porn case
1009Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt

A former Forsyth County deputy convicted of illegally accessing child pornography on a county computer may get a new trial after allegations surfaced Thursday that a county employee withheld crucial evidence in the case.

An attorney for Milton Scott Pruitt filed a motion for new trial Thursday in U.S. District Court in Gainesville, just prior to Pruitt’s scheduled sentencing hearing. The motion claims that Forsyth County Information Technology Administrator J.D. Rusk purposely withheld the location of a computer server that was a key part of the case and lied about it on the witness stand during Pruitt’s July trial.

Pruitt’s attorney, Ann Fitz, said the discovery was made on Monday when a computer forensics expert for the defense was hired by Forsyth County to locate evidence in the case.

Fitz said Rusk testified during the trial that the server which Pruitt allegedly accessed to view the images was either destroyed, erased or put into service in another department and could not be located.

Tami Loehrs, who worked for the defense as a computer expert during the trial, found e-mails Monday indicating Rusk knew where the server was immediately prior to Pruitt’s trial, according to the defense motion. Loehrs found the server soon after starting her work at the county Monday, according to the motion.

U.S. District Court Judge William C. O’Kelley delayed sentencing and said a hearing would be set on the motion for a new trial.

"If what is outlined in this motion is true, I would find it to be of great concern," O’Kelley said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg said government prosecutors just learned of the allegations when the motion was filed Thursday morning.

"All of this is new information to us," she told the judge.

Rusk did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he could not immediately comment Thursday on the defense allegations.

Pruitt was convicted by a jury of receiving child pornography that had been stored on a county server as part of a criminal investigation.

He also was found guilty of receiving child pornography on a personal computer in his home.

He faces between five and 20 years in prison on each of two counts of receiving child pornography.

Pruitt, a former patrol sergeant, ran an unsuccessful campaign for Forsyth County sheriff last year against incumbent Ted Paxton, finishing second in a three-man race with 956 votes. Pruitt received 8 percent of the vote despite being under federal indictment.

Times regional staff writer Julie Arrington contributed to this report.