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Voided Ticket Sparks Political Brouhaha in Fayetteville

Posted November 7, 2007
Updated November 14, 2007

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— A minor traffic accident has turned into a major political mess for Mayor Tony Chavonne and City Manager Dale Iman.

Three cars were involved in an Oct. 25 wreck at the intersection of Stoney Point and Gillis Hill roads. Officer Jennifer Rodriguez, of the Fayetteville Police Department, cited Diana Knight for running a red light after getting conflicting accounts of the incident from witnesses.

Knight's husband, Gary Knight, the deputy garrison commander at Fort Bragg before he retired, called Chavonne that evening to complain, saying he thought police were rushing to judgment. After Chavonne and Iman visited Diana Knight in Cape Fear Valley Medical Center that night – she was injured in the wreck – the ticket was voided and police reopened the investigation.

Another driver, 21-year-old Jamell Jones, was subsequently charged with running a red light in the case.

City Councilman Curtis Worthy said Chavonne and Iman overstepped their authority, giving special treatment to a friend while second-guessing an experienced police officer.

"The appearance of wrongdoing – just the very appearance – means we shouldn't do it," Worthy said. “Let the court decide that you’re guilty or not, and that’s the way it should have been handled."

Chavonne owes the public an apology, Worthy said.

The mayor declined to comment on the incident, saying he would discuss it at a City Council meeting next Tuesday. Iman said he was in meetings all day and couldn't discuss the case.

Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine wasn't available for comment, and Gary and Diana Knight couldn't be reached for comment.

"Everyone is angry about this incident," said Myron Pitts, a columnist for The Fayetteville Observer who has written about the controversy.

“The majority of witnesses, including this third driver, thought Diana Knight was at fault in the accident. So, there’s going to be conflicting accounts,” Pitts said. “That’s going to be in most accidents. The point is that the rest of us would have had to just muddle through the conflicting accounts."

"That implies that every ticket should not be given because there's not adequate time to determine at a scene who's at fault," Worthy said.

Iman has said publicly that he would have done the same thing for anyone in a similar situation, but Pitts called that statement nonsense.

“Anyone, I think, with a functioning brain knows that’s not practical for the mayor and city manager to be involved in every accident that goes on in the city of Fayetteville,” he said.

The issue drew a lone protester to City Hall on Wednesday. Mike Mansfield scrawled the words "Justice Must Not Die" on a slip of paper.

"How can we trust their judgment from now on? The mayor? The city manager? The police chief?" Mansfield asked.

37 Comments

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  • Vietnam Vet Nov 8, 2007

    Just another case of somebody knowing somebody and throwing justice and the law out the window.

  • Tarheel Army Mom Nov 8, 2007

    I love that word Brouhaha..I thought Mark Roberts left WRAL. Sounds like one of his traffic words...

  • Reason Nov 8, 2007

    First of all, for all the uneducated out there, the police do not determine fault in an accident. A citation does not mean that a particular person is the cause of the accident. Insurance companies determine fault. Police write an accident report based on the information given. And based on that information and eye witness accounts they may or may not write a ticket.

    Its funny no one has mentioned anyone at the District Attorney's Office. Someone there had to dismiss the ticket. A mayor nor a City Manager have that power. They can request it, but thats it.

    I think its garbage that they didn't side with their officer. Should have let the judge hear the facts and sort it out in court.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 8, 2007

    leo-nc

    Frequently the police lie too. Plus all too often they take care of their own. A good friend of mine was a deputy years ago. At times when I road with him in his personnel vehicle he would routinely run red lights and stop signs if there were no other vehicles coming. Speed limit signs were pretty much treated as just a suggestion by him. As to the public lying, I have no doubt you are right. However, it is not everyone.

  • methinks Nov 8, 2007

    loe, I was involved in a wreck a couple of years ago where a minivan rearended my car while I was stopped at a stop light. She got out, gave me her insurance information, and left. The cop that showed up didn't care that she left, didn't care that she might have provided me with incorrect information, and wasn't too concerned about giving her a ticket. Not only did she not get a ticket for whatever it is for hitting a stopped car, she didn't even get a ticket for leaving the scene of the accident. If it wasn't for the fact that I wrote down her tag number and brief descrition of the girl, my insurance company would not have been able to do anything because the info given to me was bogus. So don't tell me how much work goes into investigating an accident. As for the cops I know, unless it is a clear cut case of who was at fault then either no one gets a ticket or they all get one.

  • BUCKEYEnNC Nov 8, 2007

    What was he thinking?!?!?! She could have just fought the ticket or something!!!

    Talk about stupid! Fayetteville is waaaay to small to try and pull something like this!!!!

    Now we are going to get allegations of racism, classism, cronysm and everything else!!!!

    That's all we need here!!!! Great work TONY!

  • ckblackm Nov 8, 2007

    Money and power take care of their own... once again. Big surprise there.

  • leo-nc Nov 8, 2007

    "The cops I know would not have given any one a ticket if there was too many conflicting stories."

    Then the cops you know wouldn't be doing their job.

  • leo-nc Nov 8, 2007

    oops. too long again.

    My last sentence is that I would support her. sorry

  • leo-nc Nov 8, 2007

    "If there were conflicting statements, noone should have been given a ticket"

    I disagree with this about 110 percent. I investigate wrecks every day, we take all of those statements with a grain of salt. It's amazing how many people will lie to you in order to try and find the other driver at fault. It's ridiculous actually. Almost every wreck I go to, this happens. Just because there are conflicting statements doesn't mean that the officer can't figure out what happened. It's called looking at the totality of the circumstances, including examining physical evidence on the scene. Skid marks, yaw marks, gouge marks, debris, position of the vehicles, types of injury etc. It doesn't take that long, and the information goes a long way in determining what happened. I never trust the public because they lie through their teeth. The physical evidence will always tell you what happened. If this officer looked at the totality of the circumstances and made her decision, I would suppo

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