I-Team investigates after Person County commissioner cleared of DWI charge

Saturday, June 6, 2015
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The ABC11 I-Team obtained exclusive dash camera video of the controversial DWI arrest of Kyle Puryear, the chairman of the Person County Board of Commissioners.

ROXBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- A local leader was charged with DWI and then cleared. Now, the judge's ruling has some wondering if he got preferential treatment.

The ABC11 I-Team obtained exclusive dash camera video of the controversial DWI arrest of Kyle Puryear, the chairman of the Person County Board of Commissioners.

District Court Judge Lloyd "Mike" Gentry found Puryear not guilty last week.

Christy Eubanks with Mothers Against Drunk Driving was in the courtroom when the dash camera video was played.

"It's a total disgrace to our justice system to know that we've got a judge who will just let a DWI suspect walk out of court with a not guilty verdict," said Eubanks, adding she plans to file a complaint with Judicial Standards.

Court records say a Person County deputy followed Puryear after observing his tag light was out.

The camera appeared to show him briefly crossing the center line. The deputy's report says he did it twice.

In the video, Puryear puts on his signal before turning into a gravel drive. The deputy notes his speech was slurred and his eyes were red and glassy.

Puryear admitted to drinking two beers, one of them just minutes before the traffic stop. During the roadside test, the deputy says Puryear used his car to steady himself.

He blew a .13 blood alcohol level, which is well over the legal limit.

It would not be admitted into evidence, according to Judge Gentry who says he was unaware of the BAC level until after the trial.

Puryear's attorney would successfully argue to suppress his arrest.

In a statement to the I-Team, Judge Gentry further explained his ruling:

"The news coverage has been incomplete on important factors.

"The blood alcohol (supposedly .13) reading was never entered in evidence and was not known to me until after the trial was over and Court was adjourned.

"The trial Assistant District Attorney agreed the HGN (horizontal gaze nystagmus test), was inappropriately administered.

"The Defense attorney argued and the State's attorney conceded that the HGN test should be excluded from evidence.

"The fact that the surface where testing was done was slanted was argued as a factor, but was not determinative of whether the results of testing done on the surface should be ignored.

"The suppression was not the result of a decision that the officer had no ground to stop the driver, but was the results of my decision that, having made the stop, there was not probable cause to arrest."

Judge Gentry and the Person County District Attorney added that the trial was prosecuted by the Rockingham County District Attorney's Office because of a conflict of interest.

Frances Blalock, a former commissioner, who served with Puryear, told ABC11 that she believes he violated the board's code of ethics.

"I was not surprised but was so disappointed at the not guilty verdict issued by Judge Gentry," Blalock wrote in an email to the I-Team. "The Person County Code of Ethics for Commissioners was adopted under Mr. Puryear's watch."

She added that commissioners are required to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety under the code.

Since 2000, Chairman Puryear was ticketed for speeding at least eight times in North Carolina and Virginia. His license was revoked in 2012.

Traffic violations aside, Puryear is still in the driver's seat at the board of commissioners and on the road.

ABC11 tried to contact Puryear but did not get a response.

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