Every school kid learns that, in this country, there's supposed to be equal justice under the law.
But it may not be true when it comes to speeding tickets.
Our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that yet another member of the governor's Cabinet got a ticket fixed.
And it may be a symptom of a much larger problem.
As our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams discovered, almost a third of all speeding tickets written by state troopers get dismissed.
Case in point: the state's labor commissioner.
"Everybody speeds or breaks the law at some point," says Trooper Matt Perry.
Out on Tennessee's roads, Perry says, he doesn't care who you are. If you're speeding, he's going to do what it takes to slow you down.
"If I would normally write somebody else a citation, I'm not going to cut that person a break because they tell me who they are or who they know."
Still, our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that, after a trooper writes the ticket, who you are or who you know may make all the difference.
"I'm no better than anybody else. If I speed, I deserve a ticket," says state Labor Commissioner Jim Neeley.
But Neeley's ticket got fixed after a trooper clocked him back in December speeding down I-40 in Humphreys County, doing 85 in a 70 miles-per-hour zone.
"I was speeding," Neeley admits to Phil Williams.
"No doubt about that?" Williams asks.
"There's no question about that. I was speeding."
Video obtained by NewsChannel 5 shows Neeley's traffic stop. While the exchange is barely audible, the labor commissioner insists he never identified himself nor asked for any special treatment.
"During the traffic stop. I didn't say anything to the trooper -- absolutely nothing."
But after the trooper wrote the ticket, Humphreys County General Sessions Judge Dan Bradley, dismissed it.
At first, he told us, it was because the case came up in court, but the trooper was a no-show.
"Would you feel comfortable if the case was tried in your presence without the trooper being there, with nobody to testify?" Bradley asks Williams.
But Neeley says, "I didn't go to court." In fact, he explains, after getting the ticket, he casually mentioned it to a friend from Humphreys County.
"He came back to me at some time -- I don't know if this was around Christmas or what the time frame was -- and told me the ticket was dismissed."
Still Judge Bradley insists, "I'd like to hear from the prosecution, and he wasn't there."
"Commissioner Neeley says he never had to go to court," Williams reminds him.
"If the prosecutor wasn't there, I was well within my rights to dismiss that ticket."
But take a look at the ticket. Neeley's court day was the 22nd of March, but Judge Bradley dismissed it a week earlier on March 15th.
Still, the judge didn't want to explain the discrepancy.
Bradley: "It's unethical for me to talk to you about it under the canons of ethics." Williams: "Is it unethical to take care of somebody's ticket?" Bradley: "I don't know what you're talking about. Take care of, what do you mean?" Williams: "Dismiss without the ticket ever coming to court." Bradley: "Yes, I do that all the time."
For example, the judge says, he might dismiss a trooper's ticket if the driver went to traffic school. But remember: Commissioner Neeley didn't have to do that either.
Neeley says, "I was told it was taken care and not to appear -- and I didn't go. That was a mistake."
For some, it may be a reminder of a speeding ticket written to former Deputy Governor Dave Cooley. In that case, a Highway Patrol lieutenant got it fixed.
But Neeley, who's a former labor leader, won't say who helped him with his ticket.
Neeley: "It's not anybody that works for me. It's not anybody who works for state government." Williams: "It's not a trooper?" Neeley: "It's not a trooper."
Williams asks the judge, "Do you understand how, to the average person, this looks like ticket fixing?"
"Do you understand what I've told you, Mr. Williams," Bradley answers, "that I am not going to talk to you about this case."
After NewsChannel 5 began investigating tickets written by state troopers, Neeley says he did what he should have done in the beginning.
"It's an embarrassment to me. I went and paid the ticket. And as a result, this won't happen any more."
As for the judge, he says if a trooper has a right to let a driver off without a ticket, he has the same right to make a ticket go away... for whomever he wants.
In fact, a lot of the responsibility for The Ticket Fix rests with the judges.
We'll investigate their role in this and other tickets Tuesday night at 6.
And we discovered that there were a lot of big names who, just like many of us, got caught speeding. We'll tell you what happened to them, Tuesday night at 6.
A multimillion-dollar contract for maintenance on state vehicles was supposed to save taxpayers' money. But "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" discovered some examples where you're actually paying more.more>>
A multimillion-dollar contract for maintenance on state vehicles was supposed to save taxpayers' money. But "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" discovered some examples where you're actually paying more. more>>