Case settled, ticket dropped after allegations of special treatment by WPD

Case settled, ticket dropped after allegations of special treatment by WPD

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - There has been a legal settlement in an unusual car crash we first reported two years ago. A number of people raised concerns when a man who had been drinking pulled out of a bar parking lot on Market Street, striking another car and injuring the driver.

Even though Richard Luther admitted to the Wilmington police officer who responded to the crash that he'd been drinking, he was not charged with DWI, or even given a breathalyzer test after the crash.

Luther had family members in the law enforcement community and was photographed being escorted by a sheriff's deputy to the passenger seat of his wife's car after the crash.

The circumstances raised suspicion among witnesses that Luther may have received special treatment.

The Wilmington Police Department opened an internal investigation in light of those allegations but ultimately decided their officer had the authority to use his discretion in this case and did nothing wrong by failing to administer a breathalyzer test.

Luther's insurance company recently settled with the woman he injured in the crash, who was a college student at UNCW. She broke her thumb and was burned by the air bags in her vehicle. The amount of the settlement is confidential.

However, WECT has learned that during deposition in the civil case, Luther's golfing partners testified he'd been drinking all day before that afternoon crash. According to their testimony, Luther drank beer on the golf course that morning, and liquor at the clubhouse after golfing.

They said he then went to another bar and consumed more alcohol before going to Time Out, the Market Street bar where he was drinking and was cut off by a bartender just before the crash.

The crash victim's attorney said that the only ticket Luther did receive after the crash, for failure to yield, was dismissed by the New Hanover County District Attorney's Office.

We reached out to the DA to explain why. He said the officer who wrote the ticket did not check the box indicating that someone was injured in the crash, and this case was dismissed as a matter of routine since Luther's insurance accepted responsibility for the accident.

More significantly, the case was set for administrative traffic court on a Friday, where prosecutors handle thousands of run of the mill tickets for people with clean driving records.

David said cases with extenuating circumstances are typically scheduled for Monday-Thursday. The officer is given discretion on when to schedule a case, but David noted that alcohol use, significant injuries, or a prior record of the driver who caused the crash can all be reasons for a more in depth review than traffic court. Luther had an arrest record for a previous DWI at the time of the crash.

WECT has also learned that Luther was in another accident a week after the crash on Market Street.

He backed into another vehicle on Torchwood Blvd. in Ogden. There did not appear to be any injuries in that crash, but the trooper who responded estimated it caused $2,300 in damages to the vehicles involved. The trooper did not indicate on the accident report that he suspected alcohol played a role in that crash.

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