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No Charges Filed in 'Ticketgate' Probe

Posted January 10, 2008

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— Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis said Thursday he doesn't plan to file any charges in the case of a voided traffic ticket that sparked a political controversy.

Grannis assembled an investigative team to review the Oct. 25 wreck that sparked the so-called "Ticketgate" controversy. But he said witness reports were so contradictory that no criminal case could be made against anyone.

Three cars were involved in the wreck at the intersection of Stoney Point and Gillis Hill roads. A Fayetteville police officer, after receiving conflicting reports from witnesses, cited driver Diana Knight for running a red light.

Knight's husband, Gary Knight, a former deputy garrison commander at Fort Bragg, called Mayor Tony Chavonne that evening to complain, saying he thought police were rushing to judgment. Police voided the ticket shortly after Chavonne and City Manager Dale Iman visited Diana Knight in the hospital.

Police later charged the driver of another car involved in the wreck, Jamell Rashad Jones, 21, with running the red light.

The Fayetteville City Council voted last month to reinstate the ticket against Diana Knight but later reversed course after Grannis threatened to pursue obstruction of justice charges against council members for interfering in the case.

Detective Jim McVicker of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, part of the four-man investigative team, said the witnesses couldn’t agree on whether it was raining that day, whether they had the red light or whether the car that caused the accident was on Gillis Hill Road or Stoney Point Road.

"These investigators have interviewed every known witness. The witnesses are very honest, conscientious folks, but they are in total conflict with what they saw," Grannis said. "There's no way you can establish either (driver's) responsibility in these traffic charges to a moral certainty."

The decision means the charge against Jones has been dropped, and no charge will be pursued against Diana Knight.

Conflicting witness statements are common in traffic wrecks, and charges in such cases are often later dismissed, Grannis said.

One witness who initially told police that Diana Knight had run a red light couldn't be located by investigators, but Grannis said that person's statements likely wouldn't have changed his decision not to press charges.

Grannis said the case was the first time in 35 years he’s had to assemble a special team to investigate a wreck.

“I think the public interest was that significant, but it sure is unusual,” he said.

Iman and Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine issued a statement late Thursday said Grannis' decision didn't change their belief that Jones should have been charged in the case.

A certified accident reconstruction instructor in the Fayetteville Police Department investigated the case, including talking to the same witnesses as Grannis' team, and determined there was probable cause to cite Jones in the wreck.

"While we respect the district attorney’s decision not to pursue criminal prosecution against either driver in this matter, it does not negate the fact that probable cause existed to issue the ticket to Mr. Jones," the statement said.

Jennifer Rodriguez, the officer who initially investigated the wreck, recently resigned from the police department. An attorney representing her said she is considering a lawsuit against the department.

24 Comments

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  • daisy Jan 11, 2008

    wa4mjf, both the original woman charged and the 21 yr old man who was later charged were injured and sent to the hospital. Actually, I believe the 21 yr old was seriously injured. Thats where the mayor and the city manager crossed the line...by going to the hospital and pressuring the officer to drop the ticket against their friend.

    Now its time to investigate the actions of the mayor and manager on obstruction of justice charges. Hopefully their actions will not be swept under the rug. I know this voter won't forget come election time.

  • RonnieR Jan 11, 2008

    First off, let me say I knew Gary when he was at Bragg DCSIM and
    Diana was at USASOC DCISM, when I was a Plans Officer at DCSIM USASOC. Both were DACs, BTW. After full disclosure, I wondeer why FPD was even investigating the
    accident, as there were no reported injuries and those types of crashes are investigated by the Civilian Accident investigators.

    My policy, when I investigated crashes with no injuries, no
    serious traffic crime (DUI, DWI, C&R etc) committed, was to
    let the insurance companies figure it out. If the brought
    a letter to court saying insurance was covering it, the DA
    dismissed it anyhow.

  • WHEEL Jan 11, 2008

    What would Fayetteville do if they had a serious incident to investigate involving the Mayor, City manager. and Police chief ?

  • Aries82 Jan 11, 2008

    You were going to charge the council with obstruction of justice, but not the mayor, the husband, or the chief?

  • methinks Jan 11, 2008

    In the last few years, when i was involved in one wreck and witnessed to several others, no one got a ticket. My wreck, I was rearended by a car while sitting at a stop light, I asked the cop why the other driver didn't get a ticket. He said that they generally don't write tickets for accidents any more unless DUI was involved or extreme speeding. Shocking to say the least.

  • syracuseinwonderland Jan 11, 2008

    "ED GRANNIS IS A STRAIGHT ARROW."

    Ed is that you?

  • ghimmy47 Jan 11, 2008

    Let me tell you something. I've lived in Fayetteville all my 53 year life. I've been a witness to and heard from those who have seen the way Ed Grannis operates MANY times. ED GRANNIS IS A STRAIGHT ARROW. He's not a politician. He's a PUBLIC SERVANT. Now you blame all the mealy mouthed politicians in the council and upper levels of the police department all you want. End

  • koverbee Jan 11, 2008

    If I got a ticket that I didn't deserve, I would have to fight it in court like everyone else. It's a shame that they have allowed this woman's husband to threaten them, and it saysa lot about our justice system. The ticket wasn't dropped because she didn't deserve it, it was dropped because her husband has an important job. I think they should have made her fight the ticket in court and charged her husband with obstruction of justice for interfering in the matter.

  • mrr03 Jan 11, 2008

    The next time I have an accident I'm going to Fayetteville. Maybe I will not be charged even if it is my fault..

  • Timtooltime Jan 11, 2008

    Why is this State so screwed up? The good ol boy system !

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