An assault charge against Dare County Commissioner Allen Burrus was dismissed by the prosecutor today in Dare County District Court.
Burrus, of Hatteras village, had been accused in October of grabbing an employee, John Paul Pehrson, 20, around the neck and pushing him into the wall at the Red & White Supermarket, which Burrus owns. The police report stated that Pehrson had marks on his neck, but also that Pherson said he pushed Burrus out of the way.
After Pehrson swore out a warrant, a criminal summons charging Burrus with simple assault, a misdemeanor, was issued by a magistrate on Oct. 3, two days after the incident.
Burrus was not arrested, but was ordered to appear in court, as is typical with such summons. The case had been continued from Nov. 14 because of another court trial. He pleaded not guilty today.
Pehrson agreed to drop the charge shortly before a trial was expected to be held in front of District Court Judge Amber Davis.
“I’m happy, and I hope the young man does well the rest of his life,” Burrus said outside the courtroom immediately after the dismissal.
Jeff Cruden, assistant District Attorney, said that after assessing both sides of the case, he saw reason not to prosecute, although he declined to be specific.
“I explained to him how the system works,” Cruden said about Pehrson. “I met with him and his mother, and he decided to go with dismissal.”
Both Cruden and Burrus’ defense attorney, John Graham, said they were prepared to go to trial.
Graham said that he had intended to prove that Burrus’ actions were strictly in self-defense.
“We feel like the evidence showed he would be the aggressor,“ he said of Pehrson.
After the incident, Burrus, 62, had denied touching Pehrson, whom he had earlier fired over customer complaints.
Burrus said after court that Pehrson had worked for him on and off, starting at age 14.
But Burrus said if the young man came to his store again, he would “probably call the cops.”
“At this point,” he said, “I’d be leery not to.”
Burrus, who represents Hatteras Island, has been a member of the Board of Commissioners since 2006.
Former Dare County Sheriff Bert Austin traveled from Currituck County to support Burrus, who is his nephew.
Austin was philosophical about such conflicts.
“I hated to hear about this kind of stuff,” Austin said. “But, it’s going to happen.”
Dare commissioner Burrus charged with simple assault