Court hears fired trooper's appeal

Charles Jones
October 26, 2011 4:20:37 PM PDT
Four years after being fired from his job, Charles Jones was in court again Wednesday asking to be reinstated as a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper.

Jones was fired after one of his colleagues shot video of him kicking his K-9 partner. Despite public outcry over the video, Jones sued the Highway Patrol, saying he was unjustly fired. And each time judges and state officials have agreed and ordered he be reinstated with back pay.

"My client prevailed before the employee advisory committee," Attorney Jack O'Hale said. "He prevailed after a three-day hearing before the senior administrative law judge. Judge Hardin, a superior court judge, ruled in his favor, and the state has continued to note an appeal."

The newest appeal is to the state's second highest court, the NC Court of Appeals.

State attorneys argued before a three-judge panel that Jones was rightfully dismissed for conduct unbecoming a trooper, but the judges repeatedly asked if anyone has ever testified that Jones intentionally violated a specific rule. State attorneys respond, "He should have known better."

Jones' attorney told the judges the state did not follow proper firing procedures, instead firing Jones because Governor Mike Easley was upset by the video. The video was released in the midst of an ongoing series of scandals in the Highway Patrol.

"The Highway Patrol in this case made a hasty, political decision that was dictated by people who didn't understand the process," O'Hale said.

Attorneys for the state said they were not allowed to comment on the case. Jones' attorney and an attorney for a police organization that supports Jones both said they won't be surprised if the state appeals the case to the NC Supreme Court if they lose again.

The Police Benevolent Association's attorney questioned how much the continued appeals are costing state taxpayers.

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