DA:2 assistant DAs amid controversy no longer employed by office

Staff Writer

District Attorney David Learner announced Friday morning that two of his assistants are no longer employees at his office, according to a press release.
“Assistant District Attorney Frank Webster and Assistant District Attorney Chris Back are no longer employed by the 25th Judicial District," the press release said. "Assistant District Attorney Lance Sigmon will be the Chief ADA in Burke County, and Kyle Smith will be the Chief ADA in Catawba County,"
Thursday, Learner announced he was requesting an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation after an Associated Press story that was released Monday contained allegations against Webster and Back.
“On Tuesday, March 7, I requested that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into The Associated Press allegations,” according to a Thursday press release from Learner
The story accused assistant Webster and Back of “providing legal advice, helping at strategy sessions and participating in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member."
The story claimed that members of a secretive evangelical church, somewhere within the tri-county area, were being beaten. Once an investigation in regards to the allegations was started, church officials allegedly told everyone within their congregation that they must lie to “protect the sect.”
“Among the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators were two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker, the ex-followers told The Associated Press,” according to the story.
“I, along with my staff, have worked very hard in the past two years to rebuild the reputation of the DA’s Office, and I cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question. My administration is dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice for the citizens of Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties," Learner added in his Friday press release.
Leaner's term at Da for the 25th Judicial District will expire in 2018.