Local News

Lawmaker questions belated speeding ticket

Posted May 4, 2009 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2009 7:11 p.m. EDT

— A state lawmaker who was stopped by a state trooper a week ago and let go said Monday he would appeal the speeding ticket he received four days after the stop.

Rep. Cary Allred, R-Alamance, apologized for speeding, but called the belated ticket a case of "reverse favoritism."

Trooper Nathan Mitchell pulled Allred over near the split of Interstate 40 and Interstate 85 in Orange County on April 27 after clocking his speed at 102 mph, authorities said. The posted speed limit along the highway is 65 mph.

Allred flashed his legislative identification badge and told Mitchell he was headed to Raleigh for a session of the General Assembly, and the trooper let him off with a warning.

"He asked me why was I going so fast. I said, 'I'm trying to get to the legislature so I can vote,'" Allred said. "I don't think I got preferential treatment."

North Carolina repealed a law in 1992 that prevented police from detaining lawmakers on their way to session. The law dated to colonial days, when authorities would often abuse their power.

When Allred reached Raleigh that night, various lawmakers reported that he appeared intoxicated and inappropriately touched a female page. House Speaker Joe Hackney has asked the chamber's sergeant-at-arms to look into the matter.

Allred denies any wrongdoing, saying he wasn't drunk and that he hugged and kissed a neighbor of his.

Word of the traffic stop became public Thursday along with the investigation of Allred, and the Highway Patrol decided Friday to issue Allred a speeding ticket for the Monday night traffic stop.

Capt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said Monday that the agency is investigating why Mitchell didn't issue a speeding ticket during the stop.

Mitchell told his superiors that alcohol wasn't apparent during the stop, but said speed was, Clendenin said.

Troopers enforce with discretion – no state law requires them to issue a speeding ticket in a particular situation – but Highway Patrol policy limits that discretion, Clendenin said.

"A trooper who observes a clear cut and substantial violation, he or she is expected to take action on that violation," he said. "We know this doesn't look good, and that's why we're looking into it, because this, quite frankly, shouldn't have happened."

Gov. Beverly Perdue expects the agency to investigate the matter and take any necessary action, spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said.

The Highway Patrol has battled image problems in recent years. Some troopers have been accused of pulling over single, young women, others have admitted having sex on the job, and one was fired for kicking his K-9 during a training session.

Last year, the Highway Patrol belatedly issued a speeding ticket to Anthony Harris, an off-duty Durham police officer, after Trooper David Smith pulled him over on suspicion of speeding, administered several field sobriety tests because he smelled alcohol and let him go without any charge.

Clendenin said the 1,800 state troopers on the job deserve the public's respect, despite a few missteps.

"Judge us by our actions after we find out about it. We don't try to sweep it under the rug. We don't try to hide it," he said.