Under the Dome

Fired trooper’s attorney awarded $125,000 in fees

UPDATED The state’s persistence in fighting a losing series of court rulings that went in favor of a fired trooper has inflated the amount of money North Carolina must now pay to his attorney.

John P. “Jack” O’Hale of Smithfield has been awarded $125,400 for his lengthy defense of Charles Jones. The State Highway Patrol sergeant was fired in 2007 after cellphone video surfaced of him kicking his drug-detection dog, Ricoh, during a training exercise.

After the video became public, Jones was fired at the demand of then-Gov. Mike Easley. The state appeals court eventually ruled his firing was improper, and he was re-instated with back pay of more than $200,000.

Last July, the state Human Resources Commission agreed to pay O’Hale $75,000 in court-ordered attorney fees. O’Hale appealed on the ground that it should have been designated as an extraordinary case, making it eligible for a higher hourly rate.

Judge Mary Ann Tally agreed, and awarded him $300 an hour instead of $175.

The judge said the case was novel and difficult because of the SHP’s “blatant disregard” for its own policies and procedures, Easley’s direct involvement, and the extensive work O’Hale put into the case. She noted that every time a ruling went in Jones’ favor, the state chose to appeal.

“The court concludes that the instant case was not an ordinary personnel case; rather, prolonged litigation and the long-term vigorous defense mounted by the Respondent as well as the input of the Office of the then-sitting Governor for the State of North Carolina makes this case, by any measure, an extraordinary case,” Tally wrote in her order, signed Jan. 17.

O’Hale will also collect $2,069 in costs that he had advanced.

Update: Thet state mailed the court a notice of appeal on Wednesday.