Court rules fired trooper should return to work

Charles Jones
February 7, 2012 8:18:54 AM PST
Almost five years after being fired from his job, a three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Charles Jones should be reinstated as a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper.

Jones was fired in 2007 after one of his colleagues shot video of him kicking his K-9 partner named Ricoh. Despite public outcry over the video, which was part of a narcotics training session, Jones sued the Highway Patrol, saying he was unjustly fired.

Tuesday's ruling upholds Wake County Superior Court Judge James Hardin's ruling two years ago that should be reinstated with back pay.

The state's second highest court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, made the ruling after first hearing the case back in October.

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 they fired Jones because then-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.

In a training video, the dog was seen hanging by its leash from a deck railing with his front feet off the ground. Jones was then seen kicking the dog five times. But according to previous testimony, what got the former Highway Patrol Sergeant fired was leaving the dog hanging too long.

However, the Court of Appeals determined that "the trial court properly concluded that the Patrol lacked just cause to terminate Jones." They agreed with the trial court's order to reinstate Jones with back pay.

Following the October hearing, Jones' attorney and an attorney for a police organization that supports Jones both said they wouldn't be surprised if the state appeals the case to the NC Supreme Court if they lose again.

The state has not said if it has any plans to appeal following Tuesday's ruling.

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

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