SC solicitor pays open container ticket, avoids court appearance

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers has paid a $155 fine for an open container ticket he received on May 25 and will avoid a scheduled June 14 appearance in court.

Myers found himself facing that charge after a South Carolina Highway Patrolman stopped the elected official last month on suspicions of driving under the influence.

A Highway Patrol video obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows a trooper attempting to pull Myers over on Old Chapin Road near his home in Lexington County. The stop happened at 10:10 p.m. May 25, shortly after the University of South Carolina baseball game.

As soon as Myers stops, he gets out of his car and walks toward the trooper.

"What did I do?" Myers asks Senior Trooper M.D. Alveshire.

"Go ahead and get your license for me and I'll explain," the trooper said.

"When you pulled out in front of me over here on before we got to Old Cherokee, you were swerve — you were driving down the middle of the road," Alveshire told Myers.

"You know why?" Myers asks the trooper, "Because I was listening to the Carolina game and it's good stuff," Myers said.

"You had anything to drink?" the trooper asks. "Yeah, I had a few," Myers responds.

The trooper tells Myers to walk to the back of his car when he spots a cup inside the car. Alveshire asks the solicitor what's in the cup, and Myers responds that it's some scotch that state Sen. Jake Knotts left in the car.

"Hang on a second," the trooper tells Myers as he pulls out his radio and calls for backup. "Can I get one of y'all down here to Old Cherokee and Old Chapin?"

The video shows the trooper take a long look at Myers' driver's license, then calls for backup over the radio.

Myers spends several minutes leaning on the back of his car as the trooper sits inside his vehicle working on the case. Myers changes his story as to whom the open container of alcohol belongs to. "That was her drink," Myers yells to the trooper, referring to a woman who pulls up behind the trooper out of view of the camera.

"Who is her," Alveshire asks Myers. "That lady, I just dropped her off at her house," Myers said, later calling the unidentified woman his "girlfriend."

When Alveshire's backup arrives, the trooper turns his spotlight on and shines it in Myers' face where he spends a few minutes trying to perform field sobriety tests on the solicitor. "Alright, Mr. Myers, how much have you had to drink tonight," Alveshire asks. "I had two drinks," Myers responds.

"What I want you to do is walk out here for me," Alveshire tells Myers. "I can't do that," Myers said, explaining that he's had back and shoulder surgeries that won't allow him to perform the troopers' field sobriety tests. "You got anything wrong with your eyes," Alveshire asks. "No, I ain't got nothing wrong with my eyes," Myers responds.

At that point, the trooper performs what's known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, which detects involuntary jerking of the eyes, often found in people who are under the influence.

"Follow my pen with your eyes, don't move your head, okay," Alveshire tells Myers. "I can do that. I can do that very well. I know what's going on," Myers responds. The trooper tells Myers to stop moving his head and tells him, "You're not following my pen all the way around."

Myers appears to pass the tests when a second trooper asks him about the cup inside his car that he initially said belonged to Knotts, but later changed that story.

"Mr. Myers, what you got in the cup," the unidentified trooper asks. "That's what my girlfriend left in there," Myers said, "What's in the cup," the trooper asked. "It probably some drinks," Myers said. "Alcoholic," the trooper asked. "Yeah," Myers said.

The trooper smells the inside of the cup and pours the liquid out on the side of the road.

Knotts denies being with Myers that evening and says the drink was not his. Knotts said SCDPS director Leroy Smith called him to notify him of the video's release because he "wanted to give me a heads up," Knotts said.

"He was joking with the guy about that being my drink," Knotts said, "and when you see the video, I think you'll see what I'm talking about." Knotts admitted that he and Myers are "big friends" and do spend time together.

The patrolman charged Myers with having an open container of alcohol inside his car.

MYERS' 2005 DUI CONVICTION

In May 2005, North Carolina law enforcement charged Myers with driving under the influence and open container in Asheville while the elected prosecutor was attending a solicitor's conference there. Myers blew a .11 blood alcohol level on the breathalyzer there. The legal limit in North Carolina is .08 percent.

Myers was driving his county-owned Lincoln Town Car when he was stopped near Interstate 240. Officers arrested Myers that night.

Myers pleaded guilty to the charge and served a year probation.

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