Neal is awaiting action on drunk driving charge
“You’ve Got the Biggest Catch”
Representative of Ward 3 on Clinton City Council and a member of the recreation committee, Robbie Naomi Neal is continuing in her role as a city council member pending court action on her second drunk driving charge.
The City of Clinton refuses to release the body cam footage from the arresting officer’s uniform camera.
“You’ve got the biggest catch,” Neal told her arresting officer. “It’s bad for the city for you to do this right now.”
Neal was arrested Nov. 17 by Lt. Catherine Anderson, the 2017 Clinton Officer of the Year. For a second offense DUI, Neal faces a fine of not less than $2,100 nor more than $5,100, and imprisonment for not less than five days nor more than one year. There are different fines and jail terms based on a suspect’s alcohol consumption; these will not apply to Neal as she refused breath, blood and urine tests, and stopped cooperating with field sobriety tests.
The arrest took place at North Sloan St. and West Pitts St, in Clinton, at 10:32 p.m. on Nov. 17, according to a Clinton Public Safety Incident Report.
She refused to sign an Advisement of Implied Consent Rights form, a Breath Alcohol Analysis Test Report form, and a SC DMV Notice of Suspension form.
She did sign a bail form and an “information regarding your rights” form while in custody at the Johnson Detention Center.
“Stern but fair,” was the characterization of Anderson at the Laurens County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year program, by then Public Safety director Robin Morse. She has 20 years of service in law enforcement. She started working with the SC Highway Patrol in 1982, joined the Clinton Department of Public Safety as a reserve officer in 2005, and moved to full-time in 2007.
Neal was elected to the Clinton City Council in 2017. Records show her first DUI conviction was in 2013. She successfully completed a required alcohol awareness class (driving suspension ended Jan. 25, 2014).
On her latest charge, Neal, 55, of 103 E. Bluford St., Clinton, was released after posting $10,000 bond by Leesa Inabinet, Laurens County chief magistrate.
She likely will not face discipline.
A social media report says the City of Clinton recently suspended an employee in a suspicion of DWI matter, even though the person did not lose driving privileges. The suspension is pending a trial, according to these reports. However, Neal can be suspended, or removed from office, only by order of the governor.
A magistrate’s form says Neal is employed by the Greenville Health System (Laurens).
Records indicate there is dash cam video of Anderson stopping Neal’s vehicle, and video of the Breathalyzer administration that Neal refused. Officers’ body cam video is not a public document, under the SC Freedom of Information Act, according to Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association.
The city is free to release this footage to the news media if it chooses to do so, Rogers said.
The city cites “compliance with SC Code of Laws 23-1-240(G)(1)” in denying The Clinton Chronicle’s FOIA request to obtain a copy of the body cam footage from Anderson’s uniform, and from three other officers responding to the Neal arrest scene. The newspaper paid the city-required $3 fee for this footage and documents.
“You know me,” Neal said to Anderson, according to a written incident report.
She at first presented a credit card when asked for her driver’s license. She at first said she was on her phone, when asked why her vehicle crossed the center line, then said she reached for cigarettes. She swayed as Anderson explained the field sobriety tests and stumbled as she was led by another officer beside her vehicle.
Anderson’s report said, “I started to explain the parameters for the test when she interrupted me saying, ‘this is so embarrassing.’ She then asked me again if I knew who she was and I did reply yes. I did this to keep the event moving smoothly and not to upset Neal if I said I did not.”
At one point, Neal told Anderson that she (Neal) had a friend who recently was raped and murdered.
Neal continued to talk during the fingerprinting.
“Neal started to cry,” Anderson’s report says, “and stated ‘you know who I am.’ I told her that I did not know who she was and continued with my best friend was murdered and raped and left by a trash can. I asked her where that was and she said Winston Salem. She then cried more saying she was an embarrassment to the mayor saying also that this was going to be on her record …
“Neal said she was an embarrassment to the city then stated that she was embarrassment (sic) because she had ‘made all these plans for y’all to get all this stuff’ but then she stopped.”
A report by Officer Brian Beaman said, “While waiting the observation period Neal asked me, ‘do you know who I am,’ which I replied ‘yes’ and she stated ‘who’. I then advised her that I knew she was a member of Clinton City Counsel (sic). The observation period ended, and I gave Neal a chance to provide a breath sample and she again refused and stated that this was entrapment … Neal kept making comments that this officer took as she was trying to state she was racially profiled (see SLED Datamaster video). I advised Neal that race did not have anything to do with the case and she uttered something under her breath.”
Beaman wrote that he advised Neal her license would be suspended for six months.