New Bern Mayor Lee Bettis appeared in court Thursday morning on DWI and other charges for allegedly driving erratically with children in his vehicle.
In district court at the Havelock City Hall, the judge decided to continue to the case to October 3.
According to a North Carolina State Crime Lab report, Alprazolam, better known as the anxiety drug Xanax, was in Bettis' system when he allegedly drove erratically on Highway 70 at the western end of Havelock on May 6. His wife's two children were in the vehicle, investigators said.
The incident led to DWI and other charges against the mayor.
The State Crime Lab report does not indicate how much Xanax was in Bettis' system. But the report does show that no alcohol, cocaine, opiates, barbiturates, methadone or Carisoprodol were present in the mayor's blood.
Bettis' lawyer, Marcus Chesnutt, said his client had a prescription for Xanax. Chesnutt then offered his reactions to the lab results.
"I'm a little bothered that this test doesn’t have quantitative results with it. It shows something that is absolutely legal for somebody to have in their system. It doesn't show an amount that would impair him at all," Chesnutt said. "I'm a little bothered by the rush to judgement, the fact that he was charged without any kind of quantitative result coming back."
According to District Attorney Scott Thomas, another new development in the case is the appointment of a special prosecutor: Isaac Avery, of Raleigh. NewsChannel 12 could not reach Avery; a message on his office phone said he was on vacation.
Havelock Police said they were first notified of Bettis' erratic driving when a motorist called 911:
CALLER:"I mean, this guy almost hit about six people. He is everywhere... I'm just behind him, about 100 feet... It looks like a single occupant male. There's kids in there, no way. Oh man, there are kids in there."
DISPATCH: "Do you see a cruiser around you? If you see one, start flashing your lights, because we need to get this guy off the road."
CALLER:"Oh, don't hit the- ohhh. He's playing ping-pong in between the lanes [on] westbound 70... I mean, they popped the line a hundred times."
Bettis said he was just trying to get his kids to school when he was pulled over. He admitted he was probably speeding, and explained why he failed the field sobriety test.
"The police officer said, 'you can't do a heel-to-toe walk and you're acting kind of funny,'" Bettis said. "I just had hip transplant surgery; I don't have any balance. I can't do a heel toe walk. After the breathalyzer came back zero-zero, I pretty much thought that was it."
Two days after Bettis was pulled over in Havelock, his wife called 911, claiming he assaulted her.
According to Major Jason Wank of the Carteret County Sheriff's Office, Nicole Bettis dialed 911 at about 2:10 a.m. on May 8 from the couple's rental home on Gastey Lane in Beaufort. Nicole claimed her husband had grabbed her because he was angry over his DWI arrest two days prior.
Officials released the 911 call to NewsChannel 12:
NICOLE:"My husband just left. He just abused me. He pushed me down the stairs and choked me and he took off."
911 DISPATCH:"When did this happen?"
NICOLE:"Within the last 15 minutes, 20 minutes... I'm fine. He's angry because he got pulled over the other morning while driving my children to school and I didn't support him on this, because I told him not to drive my children to school."
911 DISPATCH:"And you said he pushed you down?"
NICOLE: He pushed me down the stairs.
When deputies arrived at the home, they did not find signs of injuries, Wank said. Nicole decided not to file charges and Bettis was not arrested.