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State Trooper Among Those Caught During Cumberland Prostitution Sting

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Charges against 32 people involved in a prostitution sting were dropped after a technicality involving an off-duty state trooper who was among those caught in the sting.

Last month, Fayetteville police conducted an undercover prostitution sting. Thirty-two people were charged, including State Highway Patrol Trooper Edward K. Royal, but a Fayetteville police officer chose not to press charges.

On Friday, a spokeswoman with the state Highway Patrol said it did not ask for any preferential treatment.

"On the night when the trooper in question was detained by Fayetteville police, they contacted the officer on duty with the Highway Patrol," said Renee Hoffman, of the state Highway Patrol. "They told them they had one of our officers detained. Our officer instructed them to do whatever they had to do with their investigation."

Royal is now suspended with pay as the state Highway Patrol conducts an investigation. The 5-year trooper could be fired for conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement officer.

Reached at his Autryville home on Friday, highway patrolman Edward Royal said he had no comment.

Mayor Marshall Pitts said dropping the charges against everyone should send a clear message to all citizens.

"We want to make sure we maintain fairness and confidence with our citizens. They want fair treatment and we took these steps to make sure everyone is treated the same," Pitts said.

Grannis said he does not think this is a widespread problem and this is an isolated incident. Police said they will conduct an internal investigation that they believe will last up to six weeks. They said they plan to create a new policy or procedure to make sure a situation like this does not happen again in the future.

Officials said the officer who did not file charges against the officer charged in the sting may face discliplinary action.

Former Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce President Billy Davidson was one of those charged during the prostitution sting. In a telephone call with WRAL, Davidson said that he has always claimed his innocence and he would comment at a later time.