The judge who presides over Davidson County's General Sessions Court says he's going to do something about defense attorneys who get to dismiss tickets. But were others involved?more>>
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A fixed speeding ticket has cost a veteran criminal investigator his job.
But, on his way out, that investigator has now fingered an elected official as the one who pulled the strings.
That official, Ricky Rooker, isn't a judge. He's the circuit court clerk. Still, Rooker got the investigator's ticket dismissed, and he didn't even have to go to a real judge.
Bob Chaudoin was a veteran investigator for the Davidson County district attorney general's office.
But what he did with this speeding ticket, instead of following the same rules that most drivers must follow, has now led to his resignation.
"He knew that it was a violation of the policy, he was aware of that," DA Torry Johnson told NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams. "We just decided that that was something that we couldn't continue to countenance."
Like a lot of people, Chaudoin was ticketed for speeding, according to the DA's office, on his way home from work. But unlike most folks, the DA's investigator had an inside connection.
"Who did he take the ticket to, specifically?" Williams asked .
"He told me he took it to Ricky Rooker," Johnson answered.
"The circuit court clerk?"
Rooker admits that's true.
"When he came to me, he explained to me that he was working on a case," the circuit court clerk told Williams.
Rooker says Chaudoin wasn't happy that the ticket also cited him for no proof of insurance -- even though he was in an undercover Metro vehicle.
"If he's driving a Metro vehicle, there would be no way he would ever be able to provide that he has insurance," Rooker claimed.
Williams asked the DA, "What would have been the proper way to handle it?"
"Go to court," Johnson said. "I mean, that would have been simple. Go to court. Tell your story to the judge."
But instead of telling Chaudoin to take his concerns before an elected judge, Rooker's staff found a defense attorney who was substituting as a special judge.
"Simply because he was an investigator from the district attorney's office who I thought might be in the middle of an investigation that he did not want his identity known, that he was undercover," Rooker said.
"But you're not saying that our elected judges cannot be trusted," Williams asked.
"No, sir, I'm not saying that."
The defense attorney, Jack Byrd, retired the entire ticket. He tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he was led to believe that Chaudoin received it "in the line of duty."
"If he had gone to online traffic school, would that have compromised his situation?" Williams asked Johnson
"No, I don't think so at all," he replied.
How does Rooker explain the discrepancy? "I have absolutely no idea what he was doing or the situation he was in," he said.
"If that's the case," Williams asked, "why should you be the one to act on the ticket?"
"Simply because, for whatever reason, he came to me and asked me to help him with this situation."
And after we posted the names of more than a thousand drivers who got out of speeding tickets, viewers helped us identify people all around the courthouse -- clerks, probation officers, even a TBI employee -- who all got off scot-free.
"That's not the approved practice -- let me just say," Johnson said. "That's not the ideal way things ought to be done."
But while most drivers have to pay the price for their violations, the district attorney says he's not sure that "friends helping friends" rises to the level of what he would consider a crime.
"Which is, I think, where there is going to be some kind of quid pro quo, where something is being exchanged, more than can you take care of a friend of mine," Johnson explained.
And despite the hundreds of dismissed tickets uncovered by our NewsChannel 5 investigation, Rooker says:
"I don't think it's a widespread problem. I think it's more or less people doing favors for friends."
Still, it's friends that most of us don't have.
Johnson says that Chaudoin -- a well-respected investigator -- complicated things by telling a story that didn't check out. Chaudoin was eligible for retirement.
So, he and the DA agreed that it was probably best for him to go in that direction.
As for the court employees involved in the ticket fixing, there's no suggestion that any of them will face any punishment.
Rooker says his office has implemented new procedures to eliminate the backroom deals.