Six people who were charged with obstructing justice by tampering with drunken driving charges in Johnston County appeared in court today.
The cases were not resolved, but the defendants -- five lawyers and a former court clerk -- stood before a Superior Court judge and heard the charges against them.
Judge Henry Hight declared the cases "exceptional," and advised attorneys for the defendants and the state to contact him to schedule future appearances. Judges consider cases exceptional when they are expected to be complicated and take more time to resolve.
The six were indicted in March after a grand jury determined there was enough evidence to charge each with improperly dismissing cases against motorists charged with drunken driving. If convicted, the charges could land each in prison.
Those charged are: Cindy Jaeger, a former Johnston County prosecutor; Chad Lee, a criminal defense attorney thought to be a rising star among his peers; Lee Hatch, an attorney who handled everything from real estate to traffic matters; Portia Snead, a deputy clerk of courts who handled district court matters; and two other private lawyers, Vann Sauls and Jack McLamb.
The State Bureau of Investigation began reviewing court files more than a year ago to try to determine whether anyone had a hand in dismissing cases using fraudulent court documents.
The setting was familiar for the defendants, but their roles were changed. Each has spent much time in those same courtrooms, arguing on behalf of someone else. Each now has a lawyer to do his or her bidding.
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