Judge Rules State Trooper 'Unworthy of Belief'
Posted August 8, 2007 4:07 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2007 5:10 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County judge dismissed a drunken-driving case on Wednesday following a two-day hearing to determine whether the arresting state trooper was a credible witness.
Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said Trooper Scott Harrison's testimony the day before was "unworthy of belief" and that the traffic stop in which he arrested Christina Pasive in November 2005 was unconstitutional.
The decision stems from a motion filed by her defense attorney, Bill Finn, to suppress Harrison's testimony if her case were to have gone to trial.
Finn questioned Harrison at length Tuesday about whether he intentionally targeted young, attractive woman, and the lawyer implied that Harrison had a history of speaking inappropriately to the women he arrests.
Harrison denied any unethical conduct, saying he arrested people based on whether they committed a crime.
Harrison told Finn he had cited Pasive after she failed roadside sobriety tests and an alcohol breath test.
Magan Parker, another woman whom Harrison arrested in May 2006, testified Wednesday that Harrison asked her about the type of bars she went to and said that if she saw him out, that he hoped she would speak to him.
"I felt like it was very forward behavior," Parker said after the hearing. "I did feel that he may have been coming on to me. I just thought that it was inappropriate."
Wednesday afternoon, Harrison denied making inappropriate statements.
"I've been a seasoned officer of over 10 ½ years and have never been complained upon for anything of this nature," he said.
The judge said, however, that Harrison made the stops in question based on gender, and he called them "unconstitutional and unlawful profiling."
Responding to the ruling, Harrison spoke from a prepared statement in which he disagreed.
"I believe that the arrest statistics will ultimately show that my arrest rates are closer to a 50-50 percentile of both men and women – and that, in itself, will show there's no pattern of profiling."
Another trooper, Cedric Herring, testified Wednesday that Harrison had made indirect threats that he might harm defense attorneys who called into question his professionalism.
In March, Raleigh attorney James Crouch accused Harrison of assaulting a Holly Springs man in the processing area of the Wake County Jail. Raleigh attorney Bill Young also cited concerns from female clients about comments that he said Harrison had made and that bordered on being "flirtatious."
"I had some concerns with the relationship between Trooper Harrison and Mr. Young," Herring testified, adding that he is a friend of both Harrison and Young.
"The potential for them to have a run-in with each other was a good possibility," Herring added.
Harrison's attorney, Dan Boyce, said his client denied ever making any threats and that it was sad that it was "spun that way."
With more than 100 DWI cases in which Harrison made arrests, pending, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said they would be reviewed individually before any decisions were made about prosecuting them.
"I don't think it would be fair to the public for us to make some wholesale assessment on the cases without looking at the evidence, and that's what we intend to do," Willoughby said.
Harrison is on administrative duty while the North Carolina Highway Patrol's Internal Affairs Division investigates his conduct.
"Troopers are expected to conduct themselves as professionals, both in and out of the courtroom, and (to) maintain a high degree of credibility with the court," Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said in a statement Wednesday.
"The Highway Patrol is conducting an investigation into the matter and anticipates concluding it soon," he added.
The state has also put Harrison on notice that his law enforcement certification could be rescinded because of a guilty plea he entered to a contempt charge.
Harrison admitted Tuesday that he left District Judge Kristin Ruth's courtroom on April 16 when he saw a television camera inside and that he didn't want to interact with the media.
That action led to Ruth's charging Harrison with two counts of criminal contempt of court – one for lying to the court and one for disruption of the court. Harrison pleaded guilty to one count disruption, and Ruth dismissed the other charge.
The trooper maintained in court Tuesday that no one directly released him from another courtroom to go back to Ruth's