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Ex-deputy changes state plea
Continues to fight federal conviction
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Forsyth County News

A former Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy serving a federal sentence for knowingly receiving child pornography withdrew his guilty plea to the state’s charges Wednesday.

Milton Scott Pruitt, 45, was sentenced in 2009 to eight years and two months in prison in federal court after a jury found him guilty of one count each of knowingly receiving child pornography on his work and home computers.

In addition, Pruitt faced eight criminal charges from the state, which his then attorney answered to in his absence at an August 2012 hearing in Forsyth County Superior Court.

Ann Fitz, Pruitt’s attorney at the time, entered a negotiated guilty plea to four of the counts.

A change in a probation condition during the plea hearing, however, led Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley to allow a 30-day time frame during which Pruitt could withdraw the guilty plea since he could not be present for the proceedings.

The proposed condition stated Pruitt could not consume alcohol "to excess." The judge said Pruitt could not possess or consume any alcohol.

Pruitt is serving his sentence in Arizona, with a scheduled release of August 2016.

He filed a motion to withdraw the plea within the time frame. On Wednesday, Bagley granted the request since it fell within the ruling made during the plea.

Pruitt’s current attorney, Tony Axam, did not specify any reason for requesting the withdrawal.

Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge said the state will put Pruitt’s case on the next possible trial calendar, which could happen before the end of the year.

Partridge expressed frustration with the case, but did not contest the motion, based on the judge’s allowance.

“He had been negotiating a plea for years,” she said, “and at the last minute is withdrawing it.”

She added the state offer of serving time concurrent with the federal sentence will not be available once the plea is withdrawn. Furthermore, the four charges that weren’t processed will be back on the table.

In the plea deal, Pruitt received 10 years of additional probation for the state charges, which included three counts of violation of oath by peace officer and one count of accessing a computer for fraudulent purposes, and 10 years to be served concurrent to his federal sentence.

The state, she said, agreed not to pursue four counts related to files on a personal computer storage device as part of the plea. Pruitt denied guilt in those counts.

Pruitt continues to fight his conviction in the federal case. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the decision in April 2011, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing Pruitt's case in October 2011.

In October 2012, he filed a motion to vacate his federal sentence with the U.S. District Court.

Pruitt was accused of using his county-issued computer to access files belonging to the sheriff 's Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce without authorization. He was fired in May 2007 amid the allegations.

Less than a week after the former sergeant's termination, he was arrested and charged with 20 felony counts of violation of the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.

In addition, he was charged with one count each of theft by taking, theft by conversion, computer trespass and violation of oath of office.

He later ran unsuccessfully for sheriff against Ted Paxton in the July 2008 Republican primary, finishing second in a three-man race.