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Ex-lawman pleads not guilty
Local indictment cites conduct, theft
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Forsyth County News

An unsuccessful Forsyth County Sheriff's hopeful pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Superior Court to charges he violated his oath of office and committed theft.

Milton Scott Pruitt, a 40-year-old former sheriff's deputy who was fired from the department, also has been indicted on federal child pornography charges.

In the local indictment, Pruitt faces five counts of violation of oath by public officer, two counts of theft by taking and one count of computer theft.

The oath violation carries a maximum five-year sentence for each count. For theft by taking, the maximum sentence is 12 months per count and the computer theft charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Pruitt, of 5510 Apache Trail in northeastern Forsyth County, was fired from the sheriff's office May 17, 2007.

The dismissal came amid accusations that he used his county-issued computer to access illegal images of child pornography that were part of a sheriff 's office investigation to which he was not assigned.

The federal indictment contends Pruitt accessed files belonging to the sheriff's Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce without authorization.

It also asserts that between October 2006 and May 2007, Pruitt used a media storage device seized in a criminal investigation without authorization.

Less than a week after Pruitt was fired, he was arrested and charged with 20 felony counts of violation of the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.

He also was charged with one count each of theft by taking, theft by conversion, computer trespass and violation of oath of office.

Pruitt was indicted in August by a federal grand jury on charges of knowingly receiving child pornography on his work computer and knowingly receiving and possessing child pornography on his home computer.

The local indictment was handed down in November. Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said it was unnecessary to repeat the federal charges against Pruitt.

"They took jurisdiction over that, so there was no need to duplicate those charges," Penn said. "We still have the violation of oath and theft charges."

She explained that the next step would be for the case to go on a trial calendar. During the time before trial, a Superior Court judge could receive and consider motions.

Penn said if convicted in the state case, Pruitt's sentence could be affected by a conviction in the federal case.

Pruitt has maintained his innocence. Attempts to reach his Atlanta-based attorney, Bill McKenney, were not successful.

McKenney has previously described the federal case against his client as "overreaching by the government."

Pruitt ran for Forsyth County sheriff this year, placing second in a three-man Republican primary contest to incumbent Ted Paxton.

Paxton was elected to a third, four-year term, receiving 10,868 votes, or 85 percent, to Pruitt's 956 votes, or 8 percent in the July 15 balloting.

Sheriff's Deputy Brian Millard, who also ran for the post, finished third with 907 votes, or 7 percent.