Investigation clears trooper in alleged harassment case

Troopers Andrew Smith and Edward Wyrick

July 9, 2011 3:40:30 PM PDT
An internal investigation by the North Carolina Highway Patrol has concluded that one of two troopers under fire after a Raleigh couple accused them of bullying and harassment did violate the state Highway Patrol's conduct policy.

The Highway Patrol announced Friday that an investigation into the incident revealed that Trooper Andrew M. Smith was unprofessional and in violation of Patrol policy.

The news comes after the Highway Patrol received a letter of complaint from Hoyt Tessener, a Raleigh lawyer, alleging officer misconduct during a traffic stop of his wife, Gina Tessener.

During their investigation, the Highway Patrol released text messages exchanged between Trooper Smith and Trooper Edward Wyrick and in reference to pulling over Gina Tessener.

The Tesseners, who are from Raleigh, were in Wilmington on June 22 attending an event. Hoyt was following his wife in a separate car when she was pulled over by Wyrick.

Trooper Wyrick says he stopped Gina for a broken headlight, however, smelled alcohol on her and asked her to complete a field sobriety test, but she refused.

"This woman refused all roadside testing, and blew .00," Wyrick wrote in a text to Smith. "Her husband is a trial lawyer and told me I should be ashamed of myself."

Smith responded: "Hahahaha f--- her and f--- him. She say how much she'd had to drink?"

"She said 1 drink at 7pm," Wyrick wrote back.

"F--- her," Smith responded.

Perdue spoke out against Smith Thursday for using inappropriate language in his message.

"I think the messages were totally inappropriate, the content of the messages," Perdue said. "I don't believe they're criminal, and I don't believe they're offenses to fire over. But I do believe the messages were wrong. We don't hire these guys to be choir boys."

The Highway Patrol has suspended Smith and he is scheduled to receive additional training. He is able to return to full duty status following his suspension.

Meanwhile, the Highway Patrol says Trooper Wyrick was justified in pulling over Gina Tessener and had probable cause for a DWI arrest.

"During the course of the investigation, a number of discrepancies were discovered between what was alleged to have occurred and what we know occurred through witness accounts and other information," Commander of the Highway Patrol Colonel Michael Gilchrist said. "The information and evidence obtained during the investigation does not support Mr. Tessener's allegations. However, the investigation did show that Trooper Smith violated Patrol policy, and he will be disciplined accordingly."

Trooper Wyrick will be returning to full duty status after he was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Tesseners said that Smith stopped Hoyt while he was following Wyrick's vehicle to the magistrate's office as a part of a setup.

The couple alleged the contact was by text. In video released Tuesday, Wyrick was seen using his phone just as someone would if they were writing or reading e-mails or text messages.

But Wyrick later wrote in a report that he never contacted Trooper Smith until after Hoyt was pulled over.

In another text, Smith wrote Wyrick concerning Hoyt's "attitude."


Wyrick asked, "HOW FAST?"

"58," Smith said.

The speed limit on the road where he stopped Hoyt was 45 mph.

Meanwhile, some say the text messages speak to a bigger cultural issue at the Highway Patrol - one Perdue vowed to fix last year.

"I for one believe that everybody ought to have a chance to read the report and hear the report and see if what we think has happened really happened," Perdue said. "Now, that's what America's great about. I have zero tolerance, but yet I'm smart enough to know when there's an ongoing investigation, I've got to step back and let the investigation happen."

After the ruling, Hoyt Tessener issued a statement saying, in part, "Based upon all of those who contacted me, I am not surprised that the Highway Patrol, that gets to investigate itself, found no wrongdoing. A true investigation needs to be done by an independent agency, court, or person."

For more information about the report, click here.

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