2013-01-14 / Front Page

Judge notes suspect had courtesy to use turn signals during chase

By TIM GULLA Ledger Staff Writer tim@gaffneyledger.com

Most often, prosecutors rely on witness testimony, confessions and sometimes scientific testing to prove a case.

But every now and then, they have the benefit of video.

Such was the case this week in Cherokee County General Sessions Court where prosecutors played several “dash-cam” videos from police vehicles engaged in chases with fleeing suspects. The videos weren’t produced as part of a trial, however, but for Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes’ consideration in imposing sentences for defendants who pleaded guilty to charges of failure to stop for blue lights.

In the state’s case against Shaun Demetrius Carter, Judge Hayes used the video to take note that while Carter fled from police he at least exercised the courtesy of using his turn signal during the pursuit.

Carter, 34, of Blacksburg, was accused of failure to stop and resisting arrest following an Oct. 8, 2012, incident during which Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Mullinax attempted a traffic stop. Assistant Solicitor Kim Leskanic said Mullinax attempted to stop Carter’s vehicle after noticing a passenger struggling to get out of the car.

While the ensuing chase wasn’t classified as a highspeed pursuit, the video showed Carter continuing to drive away from the officer’s blue lights and siren in the area of Beech Street in Gaffney, making numerous turns and passing at least one vehicle. When Carter finally stopped, Leskanic said, Carter jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot while apparently trying to swallow a small plastic bag.

Carter’s guilty plea to charges of failure to stop and resisting arrest ultimately violated his probation on a previous drug offense, it was noted in court.

“It is what it is,” Carter’s defense attorney Don Thompson told the court about the video, which was projected on a massive screen on a courtroom wall.

The judge revoked the remaining 23 months of Carter’s probation and gave him a concurrent sentence of three years, suspended to 24 months, on the failure to stop for a blue light charge.

In a separate case that was handled this week, Judge Hayes got to see a much wilder police chase in which a 28-year-old Chesnee man nearly got away.

Clayton Fowler, whose address is listed in court records as McArthur Street, pleaded guilty to charges of failure to stop and being a habitual traffic offender in connection with a June 13, 2011, incident during which a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper attempted to stop him for doing 60 mph in a 35 mph zone on Pickens Street, located in the far northwest corner of Cherokee County. During the subsequent chase, the “dash-cam” video showed the trooper reaching speeds of as much as 111 mph on narrow 2-lane roads while trying to keep pace.

The trooper discontinued the chase once it crossed into North Carolina, it was noted in court. Fowler was arrested a short time later, however, after he reportedly crashed his vehicle into a ditch and ran away on foot.

“It was very foolish of me,” Fowler admitted to Judge Hayes. “I know I’ve made a big mistake.”

Fowler was sentenced to a 12-month prison sentence with credit for 75 days time served.

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