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Toomer Cited for Contempt for Refusing to Testify

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Algie Toomer, Former DMV Officer
RALEIGH — A former DMV employee received a $100,000 payment to keep quiet about something, but lawmakers wanted to know whatAlgie Toomer's secrets were.

Toomer appeared Tuesday before a house panel that's looking for someanswers. What happened was quite strange. Algie Toomer was sited forcontempt because he refused to answer any questions from House members.Toomer used his right to free speech not to speak. That's different fromhis right not to incriminate himself-- a right his lawyers made clear hewas not taking.

Toomer was feeling the heat even before he stepped before the HousePersonel Committee which is investigating why Toomer, a former DMVofficer, was paid off by the state. Toomer alleges that he was harrassedby superiors.

Toomer's attorney, Michael McGuiness, says that in over ten years of civilrights litigation, he has never observed or even heard of a situationwhere a citizen has been so oppressively attacked with raw governmentpower and outright brutality.

But as far as finding out what that brutality was, all thecommittee heard from Toomer was a plea of his First Amendment rights. Toomer didn't plead the Fifth, he pleaded the First-- the right to freespeech. By the same token, our government cannot force us to speak, sothere are really two sides to the first amendment

That consitutional explanation didn't fly with Committee members, one ofwhom said it seemed as though Toomer's attorneys may have been digging tofind a reason for him not to testify. Representative Carolyn Russell saysher committee is simply a fact-finding committee. The citation was issuedbecause the committee didn't get the facts. Somehow, she says, they willfind a way to get them.

Photographer:Ron PittmanandKerrieHudzinski

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