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Judge: DA can't pursue illegally dismissed DWI cases

Posted August 12, 2010

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— A judge ruled Thursday that Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle cannot pursue charges in more than 30 cases at the heart of a ticket-fixing scheme in that county.

"I have the utmost respect for Judge (Joseph) Setzer and his ruling. I know that there was a lot of careful consideration for such a unique issue," Doyle said shortly after the ruling.

The judge's ruling was more on the procedure of the situation and not the principle. Setzer said Doyle's motion for relief didn't fit in this situation since it is a post-verdict motion. There were no verdicts in the cases, and dismissal forms were simply illegally filed, he ruled.

Judge Joseph Setzer Judge: D.A. can't pursue illegally dismissed DWI cases

Six people, including former Assistant District Attorney Cyndi Jaeger, pleaded guilty early this year to illegally dismissing tickets. Thirty-four cases that were dismissed involved alcohol-related offenses, mostly driving while impaired.

Doyle said she wanted to pursue the DWI charges because Jaeger didn't have the authority to dismiss the cases.

"We consulted with attorneys with the (state) Administrative Office of the Courts. We also consulted with attorneys who had special backgrounds in driving while impaired procedure and things like that, and this was how we were instructed to attempt to bring these cases back up," Doyle said.

John Hubbard, one of the defendants in the dismissed cases, said he was glad to put the matter behind him.

"I spoke to an individual who had told me that, basically, I was suffering no consequences," Hubbard said. "As I explained to him, I've already spent thousands of dollars."

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

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.

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

48 Comments

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  • Qwerty27807 Aug 13, 2010

    Gee, is the DA up for reelection in November? This was reported a long time ago -- why NOW do we seek to reopen these cases?

  • anonemoose Aug 12, 2010

    Actually LEO, it is with or without leave to represent, however if the VD form isn't valid anyway, then if it was with or without is irrelevant.

    The judge did not rule that the charges cannot be reinstated, but only that the method of asking was flawed. The problem is that this has never happened or been thought of until this case. She just has to find or create the proper pleading to have it heard.

  • beckerunc Aug 12, 2010

    How long did the DA wait to file this motion and why? This mess was reported years ago. Why now?

  • r u crazy too Aug 12, 2010

    No Party Affiliate: You're right, the penalties for DUI are tough. And they should be tougher! The consequences of driving while impaired can be life changing if you are the victim of someone's personal choice to drink and drive.

  • leo-nc Aug 12, 2010

    "Actually it depends on whether it was dismissed WITH or WITHOUT prejudice as to whether charges can be refiled."---

    It was WITHOUT...

  • leo-nc Aug 12, 2010

    "We'll call this a "Kodac moment". A claim of expertise where there is obviously none. A dismissed case cannot be brought back into court by the prosecution, under the same charges, unless NEW evidence can be entered into the court record. That is, evidence that is not already in the record for the original case such as breathalyzer results or field sobriety tests. The fact that these cases cannot be re-filed is not a surprise. It's surprising that she even tried."--citizen782

    While the judge is correct in his ruling from a technical point of view, this is NOT double jeopardy. For someone who claims to know so much about your rights and the law, you sure don't know much. This request CAN and I'm sure WILL be refiled...

  • bluegrass Aug 12, 2010

    I thought I heard a big WHEW come out of Johnson County today.

  • didisaythat Aug 12, 2010

    Funny if it were reveresed and the DWI offenders had been found guilty and then some illegal procedures were found they would given a new trial or it be dismissed. But since they got out of the charge and now it shows they should stand trial, it is not done. Must be nice to give all the breaks to the criminals.

  • Ambygirl Aug 12, 2010

    No Party you must be a hard core "drink and drive" advocate! Hope no one ever gets killed by your so called 3 beers when you get behind the wheel...and most high school kids today can probably drink you under the table.

    FatCat-- you hit it right on the money!

  • Comments Aug 12, 2010

    "We'll call this a "Kodac moment". A claim of expertise where there is obviously none. A dismissed case cannot be brought back into court by the prosecution, under the same charges, unless NEW evidence can be entered into the court record. That is, evidence that is not already in the record for the original case such as breathalyzer results or field sobriety tests. The fact that these cases cannot be re-filed is not a surprise. It's surprising that she even tried."

    Here's some new evidence: The cases were illegally dismissed.....there was no authority to dismiss them as she was no longer the ADA.

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