Local News

State senator stands behind troopers accused of misconduct

Posted July 4, 2011 9:09 p.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2011 11:39 a.m. EDT

— A North Carolina lawmaker says he believes a state trooper, accused of inappropriate conduct toward a Raleigh woman, did nothing wrong based on security video he's seen regarding the allegations.

Gina Tessener said last week that Senior Trooper Edward Wyrick pulled her over in Wilmington on June 21 and arrested her on a driving while impaired charge, despite the fact that she registered a 0.00 reading on two separate alcohol breath tests.

She said she believes Wyrick also arranged to have her husband, Hoyt Tessener, pulled over by Trooper Andrew Smith as Hoyt Tessener was following her to the local magistrate's office after her arrest.

Wyrick and Smith are on administrative duty while the North Carolina State Highway Patrol conducts an internal investigation into the matter.

"My personal experience was that they were professional, honest and forthright," State Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said in an email Monday after reviewing security video from the New Hanover County Detention Center, where Gina Tessener was taken after her breath test so that she could be released.

"I was shocked and angered when it was apparent that the video did not represent several of the allegations made in the letter," Goolsby said.

Goolsby was one of two dozen state officials who received an eight-page later from Hoyt Tessener about the traffic stop.

In that letter, Hoyt Tessener wrote that his wife, who hadn't been drinking, was harassed, intimidated and degraded during and that she did not feel as if she could trust Wyrick after he said he smelled alcohol.

The Tesseners also claim that the magistrate lectured Gina Tessener, allegedly telling her that she thought she was better than everyone else, demanding that she acknowledge she did something wrong and telling her that she better hope she never crosses him again.

Last week, the Town of Wrightsville Beach released security video of the Tesseners at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, where Wyrick administered the two breath tests.

A video was released Monday that shows Gina Tessener appearing before a magistrate prior to her being released during which he shakes his finger at her. The video does not have any audio.

Another video shows her and Wyrick engaged in a conversation during which both of them appear to be yelling at times.

Goolsby said in his email that he has called several state officials, including the governor and commander of the state Highway Patrol to express frustration over what he perceives to be "false allegations."

"It is time that someone spoke up and defended our troopers," he said. "I am doing so now."

Some of what the couple has claimed, however, happened off-camera, including the Tesseners' allegations that Wyrick was sending text messages on his phone shortly before Smith stopped Hoyt Tessener.

According to the letter, Gina Tessener asked Wyrick if he set up her husband.

Wyrick responded, according to the letter: "I resent you making that remark, and for that, I am not going to speak with you anymore tonight."

Gina Tessener claims that Wyrick also got upset when he learned that the other trooper let her husband go.

Wyrick denied those allegations on a note in his on his arrest report, which was released over the weekend.

"I never made contact with Trooper Smith while en route to the jail until after I verified he stopped her husband," he wrote.

Wyrick acknowledged that Gina Tessener asked him if he set up her husband, but he didn't record his response.

The accusations got the attention of not only the state Highway Patrol but also of Gov. Bev Perdue, who issued a statement last week about the matter.

“The policy of this administration is zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior," the governor said in a statement. "The Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety and the Colonel of the Highway Patrol will take appropriate action upon completion of their investigation.”

Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said last week that Highway Patrol Commander Col. Michael Gilchrist ordered an internal review immediately upon receiving the letter Monday.

It's unclear when the agency will complete its investigation.