Local News

Ex-prosecutor faces more charges in ticket-fixing case

Posted May 4, 2009 5:22 a.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2009 6:25 p.m. EDT

— A Johnston County grand jury on Monday indicted a former prosecutor on dozens of charges related to an alleged scheme to illegally dismiss traffic cases, including citations for driving while impaired.

Cyndi Jaeger, a former Johnston County assistant district attorney, was indicted on . She previously was charged with three felony counts of obstruction of justice.

Along with Jaeger, former deputy court clerk Portia Snead and defense lawyers Chad Lee, Lee Hatch, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb were indicted in March on charges that they altered court records and knowingly used illegal dismissal forms to get traffic cases against 37 people dropped.

The indictments show that 70 dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature were filed after she left her job in September 2007. The dismissal forms were filed for clients of the four defense attorneys charged. Snead is accused of deleting the attorneys' names from at least two cases from the courthouse computer system.

The majority of the defendants involved were clients of Lee, a former Johnston County prosecutor.

All six made their initial court appearance Monday morning, and all declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

"It is a humiliating experience to go through," said attorney David Freedman, who represents Jaeger.

District Attorney Susan Doyle asked the State Bureau of Investigation a year ago to look into the high rate of dismissed drunken-driving cases in the county. A tracking system installed in October 2007 found several discrepancies in cases that were scheduled for trial but had been dismissed months earlier, she said.

A WRAL News investigation found that 46 percent of the DWI charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with 21 percent statewide and 20 percent in neighboring Wake County.

DWI cases require two signed forms before they are dismissed, and dismissals are filed with the court clerk's office.

A 2006 state law requires specific information be listed on dismissal sheets in DWI cases, including the driver's blood-alcohol concentration, any other pending impairment charges and an explanation for the dismissal. A copy of the dismissal is supposed to be sent to the district attorney and the head of the law enforcement agency that brought the charge.

Thirty-three cases that were part of the SBI probe involved alcohol-related charges, primarily DWI. Some of the defendants had alcohol levels in their system that were more than double the 0.08 level at which drivers are considered intoxicated in North Carolina.

Eleven of the defendants had been charged previously with drunken driving or have had subsequent DWI arrests.

After the court appearances, prosecutors handed over boxes of evidence to defense attorneys.

Because of the complex issues involved in the case, the judge classified it as "exceptional," allowing prosecutors and defense attorneys to determine when to schedule future court hearings.