Vance sheriff's daughter guilty of DWI
Posted August 25, 2008 2:43 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2008 8:48 p.m. EDT
Henderson, N.C. — A judge Monday convicted the daughter of Vance County Sheriff Peter White of driving while impaired before an Easter Sunday traffic stop.
The attorney for Shahita White, 34, immediately appealed the case to Superior Court so she could have a jury trial.
"Because of the nature of the case and because of all the publicity the case has gotten so far, it's one that cries out to be tried in front of a jury in a public forum," defense attorney Butch Williams said.
Authorities charged Shahita White in July with DWI, more than three months after deputies stopped her near Henderson after drivers called 911 to report a sport utility vehicle swerving through traffic as it headed the wrong way on U.S. Highway 1. Callers said the driver appeared to be drunk.
Deputies who had stopped her called radio dispatchers, saying Shahita White was "blistered" and asking that the sheriff be notified. He later picked up his daughter up from the scene, and she was charged with reckless driving.
Vance County District Attorney Sam Currin initially said he could not pursue drunken-driving charges against her because no roadside sobriety test had been administered.
Later, however, he asked the State Bureau of Investigation review the case after WRAL News uncovered internal memos filed after the March 23 traffic stop by two Henderson police officers who participated in it.
The officers wrote that Shahita White slapped a deputy's arm and refused to cooperate with a second sobriety test after a first one failed to register a reading. They described her as smelling of alcohol, being unsteady on her feet, slurring her speech and having red, glassy eyes.
The SUV had damage on the driver's side, the officers also noted.
Special District Judge David Labarre sentenced Shahita White to two to 120 days in jail, suspended to 12 months of unsupervised probation, and fined her $200. He also ordered her to undergo an alcohol assessment and perform community service.
She pleaded guilty in May to the reckless driving charge and was given a 30-day suspended sentence and placed on unsupervised probation for a year.
Sheriff White has denied interfering in the initial investigation and has maintained that his deputies handled the traffic stop properly. He declined to comment Monday, saying his daughter is an adult with an attorney and the case will work its way through the legal system.
While some local residents said they believe Shahita White initially got special treatment because of her father, Williams said she might be facing further scrutiny for that same reason.
"A lot of people have raised that particular issue, and so we want to take the politics out of it and give her her day in court in a proper manner," he said.
No date has been set for the Superior Court trial.