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Sources: SBI probe, dismissed DWI charges may be linked

Posted July 25, 2008

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— A state investigation of the Johnston County court system might be linked to allegations that a former Johnston County prosecutor gave a defense attorney blank forms that allow for criminal cases to be dismissed, sources told WRAL Friday.

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle confirmed she requested an investigation by the state Attorney General's Office and the State Bureau of Investigation, but she declined to comment on the nature of the case.

The SBI, the Attorney General's Office and Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell also declined to comment on the investigation.

Sources told WRAL that a former assistant district attorney has been accused of handing a stack of signed, blank dismissal forms to at least one defense attorney – essentially a stack of "Get Out of Jail Free" cards for criminal defendants.

SBI agents have interviewed some state Highway Patrol troopers who have had drunken-driving cases dismissed in Johnston County, authorities said.

Clayton Police Chief Glen Allen, who said he doesn't know the nature of the SBI investigation, said some of his officers reported what they considered suspicious DWI dismissals to the District Attorney's Office.

A WRAL investigation in May showed the dismissal rate for drunken-driving charges in Johnston County was twice the state average.

Forty-six percent of the driving while impaired charges filed in Johnston County in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, were dismissed, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. Statewide, the dismissal rate for DWI charges is 21 percent. In neighboring Wake County, the dismissal rate is 20 percent.

When acquittals and pleas to reduced charges are factored in, the actual DWI conviction rate in Johnston County is about 27 percent, state records show.

Chief District Judge Andy Corbett said in May that defense attorneys "shop" for judges by trying to get on court calendars when judges they consider more lenient will be presiding in Johnston, or they seek dates when officers might not make it to court. He called for better communication between prosecutors, officers and judges to limit the dropped cases.

Johnston County has scheduled a special DWI court in October to better handle drunken-driving cases.

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  • illegals--GO HOME Jul 25, 2008

    Defense attorneys all across the state have always been able to "buy" a dismissal from judges and da's for many, many years. It is laughable to even think that those so-called high and mighty defense attorneys hanging back in the judges chambers before trials and such don't get special deals. After all, they play golf together, party together, get drunk themselves together, and should I dare say probably drive home drunk together once in awhile...LOL.

    Come on now, we know it happens. That's why officers get so fed up trying to help keep the highways safer for your family and theirs, when they know the plea deals will put the drunk drivers right back out there and then we hear the tragic stories in the news about someone's family member(s) being killed needlessly. Court is a joke not only in this state but in the majority of the states!

  • Rolling Along Jul 25, 2008

    Conviction rates should be a lot higher...IF all the evidence is there and indisputable there should be no excuse for dismissing a DUI...period.

  • NCGal Jul 25, 2008

    "The problem is not the Sheriff or the Police Departments. It is a problem in the District Attorney's office. Read the story!"

    Agreed. They should begin their investigations with the head honcho in the DAs office.

  • JohnDeereGirl Jul 25, 2008

    Steve Bizzell cleaned the County, it's not him....it's the DA...read the story!

  • Corvus Jul 25, 2008

    The problem is not the Sheriff or the Police Departments. It is a problem in the District Attorney's office. Read the story!

  • lilwil Jul 25, 2008

    It's appalling how they get on TV and boast about how they want to uphold the law, all the while little criminal themselves.

  • lilwil Jul 25, 2008

    Just comes to show you, the judicial system is crooked and those in high offices are aware of what is going on. They are just trying to make themselves look good.

    These people proud themselves on knowing the law; yet turned right around and break the law all for the love of money and prestige while those criminals they set free go out and commit more crimes, be it driving while impaired, etc.

    It's a shame.

  • Wags Jul 25, 2008

    And to think of all the times I could have driven home tanked and had close to a 50% chance of a DUI being dismissed. We gotta clean house in Smithfield, from the top on down. There's to much of the "old boys club" mentality out there, starting with Steve Bizzell.

  • colliedave Jul 25, 2008

    Something is rotten in Denmark, ***cough, cough,** Johnston county.