Asst. DA slapped with DWI

Catawba County's assistant district attorney was arrested and charged with a DWI Tuesday.

Eric Bellas was arrested at about 2 a.m. by Sunset Beach Police and taken to Brunswick County jail. From Bellas' mug shot, he appears to have many facial injuries, which, according to reliable sources, was a result of a bicycle accident.

Bellas was apparently riding a bicycle down Clubhouse Road near Crooked Gulley Circle on Sunset Beach when he flipped over a guardrail. When Bellas was found, sources said it was believed he "was dead" because of his condition at the scene. Bellas was then arrested and charged with driving while impaired.

When Sunset Beach Police arrived on the scene, Bellas refused to take a breath test, according to NC Aware, which is an online criminal report system for the state.

Bellas was released from jail at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday.

Bellas, along with District Attorney Jay Gaither, are currently in Sunset Beach for a North Carolina Conference for District Attorneys' Summer Association meeting. The conference was scheduled for June 20-22 and is being held at Sea Trail Resort, which is located on Clubhouse Road in Sunset Beach.

The registration fee for the conference was $125, with costs for the hotel rooms ranging from $89 to $179 a night. According to a schedule posted in a newsletter online at ncdistrictattorney.org, attendees were invited to attend a social Monday, which included dinner, drinks and dancing. Monday's last session was set to end at 5:15 p.m.

The conference topics include discussion about evidence, complaints, racial justice issues and juvenile concerns. Tuesday's first session started at 9 a.m.

Bellas and Gaither could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday.

Bellas is involved with the Zahra Baker case, appearing at court proceedings for the case in Caldwell and Catawba counties. The 10-year-old girl disappeared in October, and her body parts were found scattered at various locations in Caldwell and Catawba counties in late October and early November. Her stepmother, Elisa Baker, has been charged with second-degree murder for the child’s slaying.

The DWI incident for Bellas is the second tied to the 25th Prosecutorial District Attorney’s Office since February 2009.

Buncombe County Superior Court records obtained by The O-N-E showed that on the evening of Feb. 24, 2009, John Gold Borden Jr., was stopped by a Black Mountain Police Department officer while driving 14 miles over the posted 35 mile per hour limit. Borden, a resident of Johns Island, S.C., was driving a 2000 Ford Windstar minivan that was titled to Gaither.

In his report, Black Mountain Police Officer Bobby Parks said he detected a strong smell of alcohol coming from Borden. A law enforcement assessment, documented on the citation issued that night, revealed Borden had a blood-alcohol level of .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Gaither has made the prosecution of drunk drivers a cornerstone of his administration since being elected to the office in 2002.

Bellas' court date is set for July 18 in Bolivia, according to NC Aware.

Lenoir News-Topic editor Nathan Key contributed to this story.

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