Arrest was wrong, state says

A trooper stopped a private detective investigating a case involving her father.

Staff WriterMay 21, 2011 

— The state admitted in court this week that a Highway Patrol officer wrongfully arrested a private investigator hired to document an extramarital affair involving the trooper's father, who was preparing to run for Nash County sheriff.

Trooper Stephanie D. Young was suspended without pay for two days after the 2005 traffic stop. She has subsequently received three pay raises for her job performance, and is now assigned to Troop C in her hometown of Rocky Mount.

"Everywhere I go, I look for that trooper," said Rick G. Eatmon, the Wilson private investigator Young arrested. "I will look for her every day she holds a law enforcement certificate. I don't trust her. I know she is dishonest."

Eatmon filed suit in 2007 against the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, seeking $500,000 in damages for mental and physical harm he alleges he suffered during his wrongful arrest.

Eatmon was charged with resisting a public officer, failing to signal before changing lanes, and two counts of carrying a concealed weapon.

At a hearing Monday before the N.C. Industrial Commission, the agency that reviews compensation claims against the state, Eatmon testified that he was hired by a husband to document his wife's affair with David Hawkins, then a sergeant with the Rocky Mount Police Department. Hawkins, a Democrat, was mounting a campaign for county sheriff.

Court records filed as part of Eatmon's claim show that state officials agree that the arrest was improper, the result of a phone call from the trooper's father asking Young to find the investigator's van and identify the driver.

"Defendant further admits that Trooper Young did not have a lawful reason for stopping Plaintiff's vehicle on I-95, and that Trooper Young's reasons for stopping the vehicle and arresting Plaintiff were purely personal in nature, and Young was acting outside the course and scope of her authority as a trooper," Assistant Attorney General Dahr Joseph Tanoury wrote in a motion to the commission.

In the hearing Monday, the state took the unusual step of offering no defense for the trooper's actions, denying only that Eatmon was entitled to financial compensation.

Young, 31, sat at the defense table in her neatly pressed patrol uniform, wearing her badge and service weapon. She did not testify and denied a request for comment outside the hearing.

She did grant permission for the patrol to release part of the confidential 2005 internal affairs report that led to her suspension.

Patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon declined to comment on the case, citing state employee personnel privacy restrictions.

At Eatmon's trial in April 2006, a District Court judge dismissed all charges against him. By that time, Eatmon said he had spent $9,000 on defense lawyers. If convicted, Eatmon could have lost his investigator's license.

Enough compensation

On Monday, Deputy Industrial Commissioner George T. Glenn II ruled that the state was negligent because of Young's actions and that Eatmon was entitled to $15,000 in damages.

However, since Eatmon had already won $46,000 through settling separate lawsuits against the City of Rocky Mount, Young and Hawkins, Glenn ruled that the investigator had already gotten all the compensation to which he is entitled. The state doesn't have to pay more, he ruled.

Hawkins retired from the police department in 2006 and lost his bid for sheriff.

During the patrol's 2005 investigation, Young admitted knowing Eatmon was a private investigator when she arrested him. Still, she was unapologetic.

"The interview was concluded with Trooper Young indicating that she felt like she had done nothing wrong," the patrol's report said.

News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.

michael.biesecker@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4698

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