Hewett faces up to 10 years in prison, can never hold public office again

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

Any hopes of a political comeback were derailed with the stroke of a pen.

When former sheriff Ronald Hewett signed his eight-page plea agreement, he surrendered his right to ever hold public office again.

Hewett pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of felony obstruction of justice.

As a convicted felon, Hewett can no longer vote, serve on a jury, own a firearm or hold public office.

Before accepting Hewett’s plea agreement, U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt made sure Hewett knew what a guilty plea would mean for his political future—he can never have one.

Hewett also waived his right to an indictment Monday morning.

“You’re giving up a lot when you waive indictment and decide to go by information,” Britt told Hewett and three other defendants who were scheduled for a plea agreement.

An indictment is a charge handed down from a grand jury; criminal information is filed directly with the court, Britt said.

“I advise each of you that on the charges you face, you are entitled to a trial by jury,” Britt instructed them. “The burden of proof is on the U.S. Government. By pleading guilty, you waive most of these rights.”

Hewett was charged by criminal information on May 8.

Britt accepted Hewett’s guilty plea and set a sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. Sept. 8 at the Terry Sanford Federal Courthouse in Raleigh.

Twenty-five years ago, Britt sentenced former sheriff Herman Strong to 14 years in federal prison, after he was convicted of five felony charges.

Hewett faces up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release and $250,000 in fines.

Paroles have been abolished in the federal prison system, Britt said, meaning defendants will “serve what you will actually receive less any time for good behavior.”