Trooper told to stay away from woman

Highway Patrol assigns officer to desk duty after court order related to his ex-girlfriend.

Staff WriterMay 27, 2011 

A state trooper has been assigned to desk duty after a Catawba County judge issued a domestic violence protective order requiring him to stay 100 yards away from a former girlfriend.

According to court records, the woman contends that Senior Trooper Sean "Bobby" Lineberger stalked her in his patrol car and that he ran checks on the license plate numbers of people she spent time with.

In her court filing, Erin Lee Banks included pages of text and Facebook messages in which the trooper called her a "whore" and other derogatory names, even as she repeatedly asked to be left alone.

Banks also claims Lineberger bought her drinks at a Mexican eatery where he asked her to date him again. After she declined and left in her car, Banks claims Lineberger had another trooper pull her on her way home.

Lineberger, who has worked on the patrol since 2007 and is stationed with Troop F in Hickory, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said an internal affairs investigation had been opened and that Lineberger was placed on administrative duty May 19. Gordon said he would not comment further, citing state employee personnel privacy restrictions.

The issue comes after a period of scrutiny of the patrol over repeated cases of trooper misconduct, often involving interactions with women.

In July, Highway Patrol Commander Randy Glover announced his retirement after a troop commander was fired after being caught driving while intoxicated. Then a major at the patrol resigned after admitting that he sent dozens of sexually suggestive text messages to a patrol secretary married to another trooper. In February, former Wake County trooper Larry B. Lovick pleaded guilty to felonious restraint for allegedly handcuffing a young college student and taking her to a secluded place in his unmarked squad car, where he then exposed himself.

Tumultuous relationship

Following a hearing Tuesday, Special District Court Judge J. Keaton Fonvielle issued an order for Lineberger to stay away from Banks, who works at the Catawba County Justice Center in Newton.

Lineberger was also ordered not to communicate with her by phone or text, and told he "shall not, nor shall he cause anyone else, to run the license tag numbers of Plaintiff or her known friends or relatives in and way whatsoever, unless in the ACTUAL OBSERVATION OF A CRIME BEING COMMITTED," according to the judge's order.

Legal filings indicate Lineberger, 34, and Banks, 32, have had a complicated and tumultuous relationship.

In a lawsuit filed in December, Lineberger claims Banks falsely told him he was the father of her baby born last summer. The trooper was identified as the baby's father on the birth certificate and the child has his last name.

But Lineberger claims he grew suspicious because the infant "does not bear any resemblance to" him or his family, so he had a DNA test performed. The results ruled him out as the father, according to the complaint.

In the subsequent months, according to Banks' complaint, Lineberger alternately demanded repayment of child support and made requests to get back together. She says she took steps to cut off contact, such as not answering the phone when he called and removing him from her friend list on Facebook.

"He wanted to get back together, wanted to talk and wanted me to come to his house," Banks wrote in her complaint. "I do not feel safe at his house so I agreed to meet him at Dos Amigos."

After they ordered beer and an appetizer, Banks said she saw it was in her best interest not to get involved with Lineberger again and she left the restaurant in her car.

"Immediately after I left, I got pulled by his best trooper friend, Joe Conner," she wrote. "It wasn't coincidence that his best friend was waiting for me as soon as I pulled out from the restaurant."

Messages on Facebook

The following month, in April, Banks said she spent the night at a friend's house. She alleges that Lineberger, then on duty, drove by and ran checks on the tags of vehicles parked at the house.

Federal and state laws forbid officers from using criminal justice network databases for personal use. Violators can be prosecuted.

Attached to Banks' complaint are 20 pages of messages Lineberger allegedly sent to her Facebook account that she perceived as threatening.

In one exchange from January, he presses her to explain how she knows two particular men and whether she had been "messing with either one of them."

"Now answer the ? Which one of them did you give your phone number to," he demanded.

"Jus leave me alone I'm not goin thru this bs again," Banks replies.

News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.

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

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