A former Forsyth County prosecutor who helped start the county’s first Veterans Treatment Court has been convicted of driving while impaired.
Harold Jean Robert Eustache, 38, of the 3600 block of High Meadows Drive, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of driving while impaired in Forsyth Superior Court. North Carolina has five levels of punishment for people convicted of driving while impaired. Eustache was convicted under the least serious level, which is DWI Level 5. His blood alcohol level was 0.19 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.
Eustache had no prior convictions of DWI, but in 2011, he was charged with DWI in Mecklenburg County. His blood-alcohol level was 0.09 percent. Mecklenburg County prosecutors voluntarily dismissed the charge in 2012.
On Monday, Judge Marty McGee of Forsyth Superior Court gave Eustache a suspended jail sentence of 60 days and placed him on unsupervised probation for one year. Eustache is not allowed to drive at all for at least 45 days. After the 45 days, he must get an interlocking device in his car before he can apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a limited driving privilege for a year, said Sarah Garner, a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. An interlocking device prevents a car from starting if the driver has a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.
Garner was brought in to handle the case because of Eustache’s previous position as a prosecutor in the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office. McGee is a superior court judge from Cabarrus County who is presiding in Forsyth Superior Court this week.
As part of the plea deal, Garner dismissed citations against Eustache for having an open container of alcohol in his car and for having expired tags and registration card.
Eustache remains licensed to practice law. Katherine Jean, counsel for the N.C. State Bar, said Tuesday that she can neither confirm or deny whether the State Bar is investigating Eustache for ethical violations connected to his DWI conviction.
Eustache was cited for driving while impaired on July 27, 2018, several weeks after he had resigned from the prosecutor’s office to take a job as an associate attorney for Dylan W. Greenwood’s law firm in Winston-Salem.
Officer Samuel Johnson of the Kernersville Police Department stopped Eustache at 12:30 a.m. July 27, 2018, on Marshall Street near Fifth Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Johnson is a member of the DWI Task Force, a multi-agency squad consisting of law-enforcement officers from several different agencies, including Kernersville Police.
Johnson wrote in an affidavit that Eustache had bloodshot glassy eyes and had a moderate odor of alcohol on his breath. He also displayed multiple clues of impairment during a standardized field sobriety test, according to Johnson’s affidavit.
McGee, however, considered several mitigating factors in the case, including that his driving was safe and lawful, except for his impairment, and that he had a history of safe and lawful driving for at least the last seven years. McGee also considered a statutory aggravating factor that his blood alcohol level was over 0.15 percent.
McGee also considered Eustache’s extensive military service as a mitigating factor. Eustache was a U.S. Army team leader in the Pathfinder Company of the 101st Airborne Division. He participated in more than 300 combat missions, including 14 months in Iraq and 12 months in Afghanistan. Eustache received numerous commendations, including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
“Harold has served his country very admirably and the state of North Carolina admirably as a prosecutor and he is looking forward to moving on with his legal career,” Ken Tisdale, Eustache’s attorney, said Tuesday.
Eustache, a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law, previously worked in the Rockingham County District Attorney’s Office. He started in the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 1, 2016. As a prosecutor, Eustache handled DWIs and other crimes, including violent felonies. He also worked in juvenile court. As a criminal defense attorney, Eustache now represents clients charged with DWIs and other criminal offenses while also focusing on family and juvenile criminal law, according to his bio on the website for Greenwood’s law firm.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill spoke on Eustache’s behalf at Monday’s hearing and called him an American hero in a statement Tuesday, adding that Eustache joined the U.S. Army soon after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
“I can tell you that Harold was beloved by his colleagues while here in the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, and held (him) in high regard for helping to start our first Veterans Treatment Court designed to help other local veterans dealing with substance abuse issues,” he said. “I will continue to support and help Harold personally as he deals with the repercussions of his criminal case. But like the many vets served in our Treatment Court, Harold deserves to be supported during this difficult time for the service he has provided to our community and our country.”