Local News

SBI investigates Wake County judge's handling of DWI cases

Posted February 27, 2012

— The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into how a Wake County District Court judge handled 12 driving while impaired cases, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said Monday.

Stephens asked the SBI to investigate Judge Kristin Ruth earlier this month, according to an exchange of letters obtained by WRAL News between Stephens and Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby.

Willoughby wrote to Stephens on Feb. 15 about what he called "unauthorized scheduling" and "unusual judgments" in impaired driving cases. Willoughby wrote that, in all 12 cases in question, Ruth had entered an ex parte order that changed the judgment dates, effectively shortening or eliminating the driver's license suspensions for defendants.

In each case, the defense attorney on record was James Crouch, who Willoughby accused of misconduct in court documents filed last month. 

In addition, Willoughby wrote, Ruth gave limited driving privileges in three cases in which the defendants were not eligible. Those cases were also tied to Crouch.

Wake County judge under investigation over DWI cases Wake County judge's handling of DWI cases investigated

Stephens responded in a Feb. 20 letter that he planned to request a review by an outside agency after determining that, while "there may be a totally innocent explanation for this conduct ... I can think of none."

"If these orders were knowingly entered," he wrote, "they could constitute evidence of misconduct, including an attempt to obstruct criminal justice."

Ruth said Monday that she had retained two attorneys, who advised her not to comment. One of those attorneys, Rick Gammon, declined to comment as well.

Stephens has requested that she not be assigned to any criminal cases while the investigation is ongoing.

Crouch has not been disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar, but Willoughby filed a motion for appropriate relief Jan. 29 against him in the case of 16-year-old Henry Horne. 

Horne, who was arrested Dec. 10, was given a court date of Feb. 13, but Crouch showed up in court on Jan. 20 and told Judge Keith Gregory and Assistant District Attorney April Flythe that her supervisor agreed to put the case on the court calendar for that day, the motion states.

In North Carolina, only prosecutors have the authority to set trial dates. Flythe's supervisor, Assistant District Attorney Steven Saad, never authorized the Jan. 20 court date, Willoughby said in the motion.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • FF2858 Mar 1, 2012

    A few years ago, someone with (I believe) WRAL physically put their hands on DWI cases in Johnston County, and determined there were shady practices. Why doesn't someone try their luck here in Wake County? I have a few leads you can start with.

  • john26 Mar 1, 2012

    They really should have the SBI (along with the Bar) investigate the DA's office and the Wake County Courts in general.

    I think somebody would have a heart attack if they could get the big picture of what's going on in that joint.

  • cutl00senc Feb 29, 2012

    Just more fuel for the fire that confirms that the DWI laws in this country arent meant to save lives, just to rake in the dough for the lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and the county treasures office. You want to save lives, put alcohol breathalyzer ignition kill switches on all vehicles. Nah..think of all the money that would save Americans, think of all the lost revenues.... and the insurance premium savings....its about money people....not saving lives!

  • bubbba Feb 29, 2012

    'And just to check:bubba, are you okay with a drunk driver slamming into your wife one day because Ruth let him off?' Stsndupinthestream
    What a barbaric, pathetic, hateful thing to say. Shows your intellect. Oh by the way, my brother was killed by a tractor trailor when I was 13. I guess that would bring a smile to your face too, knowing your so concerned about other people.

  • the_Truth_speaks Feb 29, 2012

    Crouch is a bad bad bad bad lawyer. His bow tie's won't help him now. He has been doing this way too long. I was convicted of DUI in the fall. I hired a better lawyer John McWilliams and my friend's hired Crouch. Crouch told them that he has done this SEVERAL TIMES. He also said the exact same thing about the cops. Another one of my friends got a DUI and hired crouch (yes three of us all 18 with DUI's). Crouch did the same thing with his case. It allowed them both to still be driving since the case's original conviction. I have been very skeptic there cases since. Well I was right that Wake County Courthouse is Corrupt! I however did not want to appeal to Superior court and got my sentence over with and completed the one year suspension sentence.. But all Three of us were sentenced by this judge last fall. Judge Ruth is considerate and I wouldn't of wanted any other judge. She was extremely nice to my family. I want to know if they will be reviewing all her cases? Well this effect all

  • jjsmith1973 Feb 29, 2012

    Love comments: are you okay with a drunk driver slamming into your wife one day because judge let him/her off. Middle of the Road is correct. People that drink & drive to the point that they're out of it enough to hit your wife are not going to pay attention to the fact they shouldn't drive. They are going to do it anyway. Fact that people assume DWI's issued are to people that are toasted off their behinds. How about the speeder that slams into your wife. He/she as done it before and what a ticket, or texter or cell phone user. None which has a drivers license taken away. You're so worried about those DWI's slaming into you. Out law drinking period. Don't say you can drink just not to much. I don't agree with out lawing it but believe in laws making sense. How many sporting events in this state have DWI arrest when they let out. ZERO. You know why? Not because there is none. It is because the state likes the money they make off events. It is about revenue not protecting the people.

  • d4deirdre Feb 28, 2012

    The investigation should also include all the child support cases Judge Ruth presided over. There has been many times Judge Ruth has overlooked requiring the deadbeat dad involved in my child support case to walk away without paying anything and just continue to add his delinquent amount to arrears. Even decreasing the past due amount for no cause. I finally filed a formal complaint against Judge Ruth when she reduced his child support payment without the deadbeat dad even filing a motion for a decrease. Thanks to Judge Ruth even with the unjustifiable reductions the deadbeat dad is still currently past due in the amount of $19,697.95.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Feb 28, 2012

    'And just to check:bubba, are you okay with a drunk driver slamming into your wife one day because Ruth let him off?'

    Do you think people have to have their license to drive drunk? This will rock your narrow little world, but people without their license drive drunk all the time.

  • bubbba Feb 28, 2012

    And just to check: bubbba, are you okay with a drunk driver slamming into your wife one day because Ruth let him off?
    ------------ And you as well, may I suggest you read further before you post, it may well save from the appearance of living in a small hole. Once again, you guys have a great day if you can....

  • bubbba Feb 28, 2012

    Fish maybe sinenomine, but you sir I have no trouble with. Enjoy your world, as small as it may be.