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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A jury found Commissioner Brian Berger not guilty on Thursday afternoon.
Testimony continued earlier in the day for a case involving Berger, who was charged for violating a personal protection order.
Even though he was found not guilty, Berger says he feels the whole situation has given him a death sentence for his personal, professional and political career, adding that his legal issues will most likely cause him to go bankrupt.
Opening statements and testimony began late Wednesday afternoon after a jury was selected.
Berger was arrested and charged in June of 2011 for assault on a female after he ripped a car door handle off his ex-girlfriend's vehicle.
Following the charge, Berger and his ex-girlfriend, Heather Blaylock, were forbidden from speaking to each other. In September, Blaylock instated a personal protection order against Berger.
Berger was arrested again in November for violating that personal protection order after he attended a Community Action, Inc. meeting, which is the organization for which Blaylock works.
Wednesday, Blaylock was present at the trial, saying that she was subpoenaed.
Blaylock said that the protection order covers her home, workplace and children's daycare facilities. "It was my understanding that the protection order was to last a year," she said. "He was not allowed to enter my workplace."
Blaylock testified that on Nov. 21, 2011, she left work at 3:45 p.m. to tend to her children. She said that she never saw Berger on that day/night of the meeting because she was not in attendance.
The state attorney then handed a copy of the protection order against Berger to each member of the jury to review.
The Director of the Community Action Center, as well as Sgt. Todd Vernon, who works with the sheriff's department, are scheduled to testify on Blaylock's behalf.
Thom Goolsby, who is representing Berger, said, "You will find out that my client attended the meeting at a building that was across the street...a completely different location. The state will try to tell you, through the deputy's testimony that he was in violation, but we want this jury to listen to all the details and respond with objectivity…"
The judge called for an evening recess, and Blaylock's testimony will resume Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
Upon his November arrest, Berger stated, "I had no idea that Heather Blaylock worked there, and had no idea that she was in the other part of the building. There was a sheriff's representative in the gym with me. I did not think or was advised that doing my job as a county commissioner in that capacity was criminal in nature."
Berger testified Thursday saying he didn't know Blaylock worked for Community Action, Inc. He said it was part of his job responsibilities to attend the meeting, which took place in the auditorium part of the building.
Berger told the judge he did not believe he was going to Blaylock's place of work that evening and only learned she worked in the building the night he attended the meeting. Berger went on to say he didn't talk to Blaylock because it would have been in violation of the protection order against him.
"I am guilty of conveying things to the media that aren't what I'm trying to convey, and that's a personal short coming," said Berger in response when asked if he told a Star News reporter he knew Blaylock was working for Head Start.
Berger claimed he knew Blaylock had applied for a job with Head Start, but was unaware if she was hired for the position.
Closing arguments began around 3:30 Thursday afternoon in which Berger's attorney said the state failed to prove the commissioner knowingly violated the protection order. He said that even though the buildings are connected, Berger was in the auditorium which is a separate entity to the Head Start building.
The state, however, argued that Berger violated the protection order when he realized Blaylock works at the Community Action Center and didn't leave immediately.
Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved.