Local News

Prosecutors want to pursue illegally dismissed DWI cases

Posted July 29, 2010

— Authorities on Thursday asked a judge for permission to refile charges in more than 30 driving while impaired cases that were at the heart of a ticket-fixing scheme in Johnston County.

Six people, including a former prosecutor, pleaded guilty early this year to illegally dismissing DWIs and other tickets. Thirty-four cases that were dismissed involved alcohol-related offenses, mostly drunken driving.

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said she wants to refile the DWI charges because former Assistant District Attorney Cyndi Jaeger didn't have the authority to dismiss the cases.

"All 34 dismissals were filed after the date (Jaeger resigned as a prosecutor)," Doyle told District Judge Joseph Setzer. "Her signature was on each one. She no longer had any authority to dismiss cases."

Jaeger pleaded guilty in February to 10 counts each of felony obstruction of justice and altering official case records. She is serving a three-year prison sentence.

Defense attorneys Chad Lee, Lee Hatch, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb and court clerk Portia Snead pleaded guilty in January to obstruction of justice charges. Lee and Hatch surrendered their law licenses and were sentenced to prison, while the others were placed on probation.

Seventy dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature on them were filed after she left her job in September 2007. All of the defendants in the cases were clients of the four attorneys – most were represented by Lee, a former Johnston County prosecutor – and Snead deleted the attorneys' names from at least two cases from the courthouse computer system.

Susan Doyle in court DA: Drunken driving cases never should have been dismissed

State Bureau of Investigation agent Randy Myers said Lee, Hatch and Jaeger devised the scheme when Jaeger put in notice that she would be leaving the Johnston County District Attorney's office. The lawyers told investigators that Jaeger asked them to file the dismissal forms after she left, Myers said.

Some of the dismissed cases involved repeat offenders, alcohol levels more than two times the legal limit or people were later charged with DWI again.

Frank Wood, the attorney for one of the men whose DWI charge was refiled, argued that the statute of limitations has expired for the cases. His client's case dates to April 2006.

Setzer said he needed more time to rule on the matter.

"I've never had anything like this in my 30 years," Setzer said. "This is very unique."

Terry Berg, one of the seven of the defendants who were in court Thursday, said she is distressed about the prospect of fighting her case all over again.

"It's been three years. I lost my money," Berg said, adding that she doesn't have money to hire another attorney.

Another of the defendants, John Hubbard, said he feels victimized by the judicial system.

"I did what I was supposed to do in good faith, based on the system. I was defrauded by the system," Hubbard said. "It's still hanging over me when I was told by my attorney and by the court system that it was over."


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  • leo-nc Jul 30, 2010

    Sleepy drivers kill just as many."

    Show me some stats, slick. I about busted a gut with that analogy though. Thanks for the laugh.

  • latigrita Jul 29, 2010

    Gotta think about this. Most people don't understand how the court system works. They think you pay a fine and get out of it. If they paid their attorney and got off the hook, you think your attorney did a great job. When you pay an attorney to take care of a traffic ticket, the same principle is at work. Of course, ignorance is never a defense. Re-prosecuting these cases will take a lot of work though since the cases are so old.

  • give me no quarter Jul 29, 2010

    redwolfeone...These 30 cases will create a lot of revenue for Jo Co and don't get me wrong, DWI cases should be upgraded to going to the terror of the people cases. My point is revenue is the name of the game in every Co. in this state. How much revenue do you think the arrest of an illegal would bring to the plate?

  • 1KidMom Jul 29, 2010

    Its no longer a country of laws, but of circular reasoning and selective justice.redwolfone...

    I totally agree with that statement, it is what it has come to. The "elected" ones pick and choose what to stand for and all the while the ones seeking justice are left to rot or wait it out. Nothing like getting to the top on the backs of the little people.

  • redwolfone Jul 29, 2010

    Yep, enforce this, but to heck with other laws (Federal immigration). Its no longer a country of laws, but of circular reasoning and selective justice.

  • cwood3 Jul 29, 2010

    Go get em Susan. Bring them all in tonight-let's get on with it.
    Can't happen soon enough.

    Some of you are questioning Susan's motives. I know the woman. Her motives are to rid JoCo of drunk drivers-period. DUI is wrong-against all of us. People get killed by folks under the influence. Many habitual offenders probably have issues with alcohol that need to be treated.

    Yes, she has an opponent this year. My wager is that she 'll win 75%-25%. Yup, she's made the drunks and the lawyers upset because she cleaned up the court house. It's about time someone cleaned up JoCo!!! Good ole boy stuff does not need to be happening with DUIs!!

    Like I said-go get em Susan!!! You've got my vote!!

  • iworkandpaytaxes Jul 29, 2010

    "This is clearly someone trying to prove a freakin point on DWIs, forget violence and drugs.......NC is all about DWIs. "---

    Yeah, the point is that drunk drivers kill MANY people. It should be a more serious offense then it is.
    July 29, 2010 12:35 p.m.
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    Sleepy drivers kill just as many. What do we do about that? Lets make it a serious crime to drive sleepy. How do you test for that? You must be a cop. durrrrrrrrrrr

  • wildcat Jul 29, 2010

    It would be worth looking into. Most DWI are repeaters and I believe they will find they (drinkers) are back on the old wagon. Certainly they need help. But they have to want it too.

  • mamabearprotectinghercub Jul 29, 2010

    They shouldn't have never been dismissed in the first place. Someone could have killed a family, killed someone, or even a child.

  • thx1138 Jul 29, 2010

    If bribes were found to have occurred, would that null the Statue of limitations in these cases?