Fired Trooper Finally To Get Day In Court
Posted September 7, 2006 6:10 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Questions by WRAL about the status of a former state Highway Patrol trooper's lawsuit over his firing led to a court date being set in the case.
Reginald Newberne said he was fired five years ago after he blew the whistle on a fellow trooper he thought used excessive force in an arrest. He had served more than a decade as a trooper when he arrived on the scene of a Cumberland County arrest one night to find a fellow trooper holding his hand.
"He said he hit the subject, and it jammed his hand," Newberne told WRAL.
Newberne said he didn't want to get involved, so he submitted a brief report with little detail. After a few days, he had a change of heart and filed an amended report with details of his conversation with the other trooper.
After an internal Highway Patrol investigation, the arresting troopers were cleared of using excessive force, and Newberne was fired for being untruthful.
"Didn't make sense five years ago. Doesn't make sense now," Newberne said.
Lt. Everett Clendenin of the Highway Patrol said he couldn't talk about the specifics of the case. But he told WRAL that Newberne violated department policy.
"The Highway Patrol did a thorough investigation. He was terminated from the Highway Patrol ... and the Highway Patrol stands on that decision," Clendenin said.
Newberne challenged the decision in court, and after several setbacks, the State Supreme Court ruled in August 2005 that he could fight the firing under the Whistleblower Act, which protects employees who report perceived wrongdoing.
But the case was then lost in the paperwork shuffle.
The clerk's office for the Wake County Superior Court was never formally notified the case had been sent back to them, a spokeswoman told WRAL. So, the case sat in the court system with no hearing or judge assigned to it for a year.
After WRAL alerted court officials to the oversight Thursday, a hearing date was set for Oct. 16.
Newberne, who now works as a Capitol police officer, said he looks forward to his date in court. He said he doesn't want his old job back, but is seeking financial damages
"Whether I win or lose, I want a jury of my peers to sit down and listen to my story, listen to my evidence and come up with their own conclusion of what happened," he said.