Judge: DA can't pursue illegally dismissed DWI cases
Posted August 12, 2010 9:22 a.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2010 4:48 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — A judge ruled Thursday that Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle cannot pursue charges in more than 30 cases at the heart of a ticket-fixing scheme in that county.
"I have the utmost respect for Judge (Joseph) Setzer and his ruling. I know that there was a lot of careful consideration for such a unique issue," Doyle said shortly after the ruling.
The judge's ruling was more on the procedure of the situation and not the principle. Setzer said Doyle's motion for relief didn't fit in this situation since it is a post-verdict motion. There were no verdicts in the cases, and dismissal forms were simply illegally filed, he ruled.
Six people, including former Assistant District Attorney Cyndi Jaeger, pleaded guilty early this year to illegally dismissing tickets. Thirty-four cases that were dismissed involved alcohol-related offenses, mostly driving while impaired.
Doyle said she wanted to pursue the DWI charges because Jaeger didn't have the authority to dismiss the cases.
"We consulted with attorneys with the (state) Administrative Office of the Courts. We also consulted with attorneys who had special backgrounds in driving while impaired procedure and things like that, and this was how we were instructed to attempt to bring these cases back up," Doyle said.
John Hubbard, one of the defendants in the dismissed cases, said he was glad to put the matter behind him.
"I spoke to an individual who had told me that, basically, I was suffering no consequences," Hubbard said. "As I explained to him, I've already spent thousands of dollars."
Jaeger is serving a three-year prison sentence after pleaded guilty in February to 10 counts each of felony obstruction of justice and altering official case records.
Defense attorneys Chad Lee, Lee Hatch, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb and court clerk Portia Snead pleaded guilty in January to obstruction of justice charges. Lee and Hatch surrendered their law licenses and were sentenced to prison, while the others were placed on probation.
Seventy dismissal forms with Jaeger's signature on them were filed after she left her job in September 2007. All of the defendants in the cases were clients of the four attorneys – most were represented by Lee, a former Johnston County prosecutor – and Snead deleted the attorneys' names from at least two cases from the courthouse computer system.
Some of the dismissed cases involved repeat offenders, alcohol levels more than two times the legal limit or people who were later charged with DWI again.