April 28, 2008

ORV Have you wondered Why Derb Carter even got the chance to win? The history Part

It is easy to blame the SELC and its partners for the lawsuit that may close our beaches. Its easy to say the NPS should have adopted rules on beach driving several decades ago. Ok, there are lots of people to blame. Their motivations are clear and not particularly sinister in their context. Environmental groups protecting the environment and a bureaucracy, well, being a bureaucracy, The real mystery of this saga is Judge Boyle. The judge who started the chain last summer by declaring beach driving illegal, The Judge has telegraphed his intention see ORV use in the seashore curtailed if not eliminated. There are a lot of problems in the world a powerful federal judge could target, drugs, poverty, free speech. What pushed Judge Boyle to focus on four wheeling on a small strip of sand? Some friends pointed me to a story, a story that may explain just that.
The story opens in Ocracoke, a June night in 2003. Four young freinds come to the island to celebrate the end of school. They have been partying and the driver is drunk. The driver's name in George Wheatley, one of the freinds is a German exchange student named Juliane Strauch:
Wheatly arrived in a Jeep owned by his father's business. Witnesses said he drove along the beach recklessly, getting his Jeep stuck in the sand twice.
Then Wheatly got two male friends and Strauch into his Jeep and took off. Witnesses estimated that he was driving at 50 or 60 mph. Suddenly, the Jeep disappeared. When Strauch's friends arrived at the scene, they found the Jeep flipped over in the water.
Wheatly and one other passenger were uninjured. Another passenger was slightly injured. Strauch died at the scene.

The incident happens in a national seashore, on US government property so the case ends up in federal court. The case goes to trail:
The jury found him guilty of:
  • Knowingly killing Juliane Strauch in the commission of (1) unlawful acts not amounting to a felony, that is, driving while impaired and reckless driving, or (2) in the commission in an unlawful manner and without due caution and circumspection of a lawful act which might produce death.
..He could receive a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment, a $250,000.00 fine, and three years of supervised release.
In addition, WHEATLY was found guilty of the following misdemeanors:
  • Reckless driving;
  • Unsafe operation of a motor vehicle
  • Possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21;
  • Carrying an open container of alcohol within a vehicle; and
  • Driving under the influence.
He pled guilty to not wearing a seatbelt, also a misdemeanor.

George Edward Wheatly Jr., 20, of Beaufort, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to three years, nine months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, then five years of probation.

Lets take a step back. In 1940 CR Wheatly was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. CR Wheatly is George Wheatly's grandfather. in 2004 Jule Wheatly, another family member, served in the Executive Committee of the state Republican party. The Wheatly family is prominent in NC Republican circles, especially if those circles are in eastern North Carolina.
The Judge who presided over the Wheatly case, the judge who sentenced George Wheatly to 3 years in prison was appointed to the bench by Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1984 after working for Sen Jesse Helms in congress, them moving to Elizabeth City to join a local law firm. That Judge was Terrance Boyle, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
It is not hard to accept that the tragic death of a young exchange student joy riding on an unsupervised beach made an impression on Judge Boyle. It is not hard to accept that sentancing the son of a prominent Republican family, a family he undoubtedly knew, made a lasting impression.
I don't know the precise relationship between Judge Boyle and the Wheatlys. I feel confident they knew each other. Others, tell me they are close but I don't know that. They don't need to be close for the events to touch Judge Boyle. In fact participants don't know need to know each other for the tragic death of a young German girl to anger a powerful federal judge, to make him aware of the dangers of unregulated beach driving.
Blue Radio has a page devoted to the Wheatly-Strauch story. I can't find much else on the web about the incident. It happened 6 years ago, a lot has changed. Judge Boyle, apparently has not. He is still concerned about beach driving and how he is using his role as a judge address that concern.
I expect that this week Judge Boyle will set his hand to a settlement in the ORV lawsuit. That settlement was framed by the lawyers from the SELC, the NPS and the intervenors like Dare County and that settlement will be framed by George Wheatly and Juliane Strauch.
I started of by talking about the motives of the SELC and the NPS. Judge Boyle's motives are not as clear but his interest now has a context and tha may help us understand his actions.

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At 5:20 PM, Blogger KYScoast said...


Nice job connecting the dots on this story and giving us perspective on the human context Judge Boyle works within.


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