Local News

Trooper cleared of wrongdoing; another suspended

Posted July 8, 2011 7:31 a.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2011 6:21 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina State Highway Patrol on Friday released its findings from an internal investigation that clears a state trooper of wrongdoing following a Raleigh woman's claims that she was harassed and intimidated during a traffic stop in Wilmington last month.

Another trooper identified in the case, however, was suspended for unprofessional conduct that violates Highway Patrol policy.

Raleigh attorney Hoyt Tessener wrote an eight-page letter last month to more than two dozen state officials, saying that Senior Trooper Edward Wyrick stopped his wife, Gina Tessener, as she left a gala on the evening of June 21 and held her on suspicion of driving while impaired, despite her registering a 0.00 reading on two alcohol breath tests.

She also has claimed that she believes Wyrick arranged to have her husband pulled over by another trooper, Andrew Smith, during the encounter.

"All of the allegations that Mr. Tessener has made – we went through those with a fine-tooth comb, and it's apparent that these allegations are not substantiated by none of the evidence," Sgt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol said. "It is supported by that in our report.

"I would advise people to go through there, and basically look at that report and look at what we offered and what the allegations were, and you can make your own determinations based on that," he continued.

The Highway Patrol said Wyrick was justified in making the traffic stop and had probable cause to arrest Gina Tessener.

Wyrick, who has been on administrative duty since June 30, was back on patrol Friday.

"I am disappointed in the results of the Highway Patrol’s investigation of the Highway Patrol," Hoyt Tessener said in a statement. "Based upon the many calls, letters and emails that I have received, I am not surprised that the Highway Patrol exonerated the Highway Patrol."

Smith will receive additional training on Highway Patrol policy before returning to full duty, the agency said..

The internal investigation found that he sent inappropriate messages to Wyrick, including some with profanity, and that he failed to document his stop of Hoyt Tessener, to whom he gave a verbal warning for driving 58 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Investigators, however, did not find any evidence that Smith and Wyrick tried to set up Hoyt Tessener.

"I know that people, sometimes, are looking for the smoking gun trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle, but there's no smoking gun here," Gordon said. "That was the whole basis of our investigation – to look for that piece of puzzle to show that there was some type of linkage that both of those individuals conspired to stop Mr. Tessener, and it's not there."

Hoyt Tessener said in an interview with WRAL News on June 28 that he took his concerns to Gov. Bev Perdue and other state officials, because he didn't want what happened to his wife to happen to anyone else.

Perdue released a statement Friday, reiterating her commitment to a zero-tolerance policy regarding trooper misconduct.

"The public must be able to put its faith, not only in our law enforcement, but also in the system that investigates any complaints about misconduct," she said. "This investigation highlights how important it is that we – both public officials and citizens – withhold judgment until all the facts are in."

Hoyt Tessener maintained Friday that Wyrick wrongfully arrested his wife and said that, despite the zero-tolerance policy, "nothing has changed."

"I believe most people would come to the conclusion that Wyrick orchestrated the stop of me," Hoyt Tessener said. "I understand now why people are afraid to bring their complaints forward. We hope by coming forward, other women who are wrongfully stopped by Trooper Wyrick will be vigilant."