WRAL Investigates

Wilson County has high rate of dismissing speeding tickets

Posted June 8, 2010 5:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 23, 2010 9:39 a.m. EDT

— A Kenly man involved in a fatal Sunday morning crash has a history of driving violations that were pleaded down to lesser charges in court.

Jimmy Vincent Coleman, 34, of West First Street, was charged with two counts of felony death by motor vehicle and one count of driving with a revoked license. He was being held Tuesday in the Wilson County jail under a $100,000 secured bond.

Police said that Coleman was driving a vehicle that hit and killed pedestrians Amie Sullivan, 25, and Nikki Whitley, 22, in the 3400 block of Raleigh Road Parkway.

Coleman has a history of traffic offenses, including six speeding tickets since 2001according to state Department of Correction records. Court records show that five were resolved by guilty pleas to having an improper muffler, and one was reduced to a lesser speeding charge.

WRAL Investigates found that Coleman's case isn't unique in Wilson County, which has had a high rate of dismissing speeding tickets for at least the last five years.

In 2008, for example, prosecutors in Wilson County dismissed 14.4 percent of speeding infractions, compared with 6.2 percent statewide, according to court figures. Last year, the county's 20.8 percent dismissal rate was nearly triple the statewide rate of 7.1 percent.

Wilson County District Attorney Robert Evans declined to comment Tuesday on Coleman's case or the high rate of dismissals.

Evans was named to the office a year ago following the retirement of longtime District Attorney Howard Boney, and he said he has worked to make changes since then. He wouldn't say whether he considered dismissals of speeding tickets an area of concern.

"(Coleman) shouldn't be allowed on the street or even near cars," said Paul Mirakaj, the owner of Paul's of New York Restaurant in Wilson, where Whitley worked.

Lisa Whitley, Nikki’s mother, also said Tuesday that Coleman shouldn’t have been on the road.

“There has got to be more that police can do to stop these people from driving. Stop taking their license and put them in jail,” Lisa Whitley said.

The mother also said she doesn’t think Coleman will serve prison time for the crash that killed her daughter.

“My daughter was 22 years old. She had a good 60 years of life left. How much you want to bet this man won't get but 20 to 30 years, if he gets that? I’m pretty sure he will probably walk. That’s the way I feel about the justice system,” Lisa Whitley said.

Whitley's family said she worked late at the restaurant Saturday and then met Sullivan for dinner. The women then decided to walk home and were hit and killed at about 4:20 a.m. Sunday.

"She was a real great girl," Mirakaj said of Whitley. "Nobody deserves to die, but it's was just really heartbreaking."

The restaurant is collecting donations from employees and customers all week and plans to give that money, along with half of Friday's profits, to Whitley's family to help pay for her funeral.

2005: N.C.
N.C. Speeding Ticket Total Filed: 332,592
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 19,686
N.C. percent dismissed: 5.9%

2005: Wilson
Wilson speeding ticket total: 1,775
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 263
Wilson percent dismissed: 14.8%


2006: N.C.
N.C. speeding ticket total: 368,278
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 23,400
N.C. percent dismissed: 6.35%

2006: Wilson
Wilson total speeding ticket: 1,589
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 232
Wilson percent dismissed: 14.6%


2007: N.C.
N.C. speeding ticket total: 391,184
N.C. dismissed in District Court: 23,462
N.C. percent dismissed: 5.9%

2007: Wilson
Wilson speeding ticket total: 2,137
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 251
Wilson percent dismissed: 11.7%


2008: N.C.
N.C. speeding ticket total: 366,883
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 24,370
N.C. percent dismissed: 6.6%

2008: Wilson
Wilson Speeding ticket total: 1,654
Wilson Dismissed in District court without leave: 271
Wilson percent dismissed: 16.3%


2009: N.C.
NC speeding ticket total: 370,607
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 27,045
N.C. percent dismissed: 7.2%

2009: Wilson
Wilson speeding ticket total: 1605
Dismissed without leave in District Court: 378
Wilson percent dismissed: 23.5%