Jury Finds State Willfully Violated Whistleblower Act after Report of Police Misconduct
Released by Erin Powers (Powers MediaWorks LLC) for Doyle LLP
A North Carolina state superior court jury today found that the state highway patrol retaliated against former state trooper Reginald Newberne after he reported police misconduct after the chase and beating of a teenager who had fled a party in May 2000.
The trial included evidence that Mr. Newberne’s law enforcement career and reputation were damaged by the highway patrol in a willful violation of the state whistleblower act. A highway patrol representative testified in the trial that the investigation of Mr. Newberne was not fair. The evidence showed that the officers involved in the chase and beating were not punished.
The seven-woman, five-man jury awarded Mr. Newberne $3.75 million, plus attorneys’ fees, court costs and about 14 years of prejudgment interest that will be assessed by the court. The award included economic damages of $700,000 and non-economic damages of $400,000. Under North Carolina law, damages caused by willful violations of the state whistleblower act are trebled.
Mr. Newberne — who waited 14 years to go to trial as the case was reviewed by two appeals courts — had reported that another patrolman told him he injured his hand by beating the teenager after the pursuit. The officer, who was not punished in the incident, reported that he sustained the injury after falling down. Three troopers reported that the teenager’s injuries occurred as he ran away from them in the woods.
Mr. Newberne is represented by attorneys Mike Doyle and Jeff Avery, of Doyle LLP, of Houston, Texas; and J. Heydt Philbeck, of Bailey & Dixon, of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Mike Doyle, of Doyle LLP, said, “Reginald Newberne’s long fight is a step closer to resolution. His case shows the consequences of breaking the so-called police ‘code of silence’ in excessive force cases. The highway patrol leadership intentionally damaged Mr. Newberne’s excellent record as a police officer and the trajectory of his career. For 16 years, he has paid a high price.”
Reginald Newberne, who now is a police officer at a college, said, “I am grateful for the time and service of the jury and court. They heard the evidence and undid this injustice. I loved serving as a state trooper and aspired to a long, successful career there. I truly hope the state Department of Public Safety learns from this case and ensures that law enforcement officers who tell the truth are not punished.”
The case is “Newberne v. North Carolina Department of Public Safety,” File No. 02-CVS-4500, Superior Court, Wake County NC, before the Hon. Michael J. Foghludha.