BURNSVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — On Thursday, a Yancey County Jury convicted Ernest Todd Holden, former superintendent of Madison County Schools, of driving while impaired.
According to a release from the Yancey County District Attorney, Holden was driving in downtown Burnsville shortly before midnight on Saturday, February 25, 2017. A concerned resident notified the Yancey County Sheriff’s Department of Holden’s erratic driving.
Holden was stopped and arrested by the Burnsville Police Department for suspicion of driving while impaired. A sample of his breath showed an alcohol concentration of 0.13, and he was consequently charged.
He was suspended by the school board on February 27. Five weeks after his arrest, Holden resigned from his position as superintendent.
The state trooper who had taken the breath sample died on April 7, 2017 at the age of 31. Holden’s case was still pending at the time of Trooper Brandon Peterson’s death, and the District Attorney’s Office decided to proceed even without being able to admit Holden’s blood alcohol concentration.
Holden plead not guilty and was convicted on July 17, 2017. Holden then appealed his conviction to superior court and requested a jury trial.
The second trial began August 7.
Because of Trooper Peterson’s death, the jury did not hear evidence that Holden’s blood alcohol concentration was nearly twice the legal limit. Nevertheless, the district attorney's office said that because of the other compelling evidence of impairment, the jury returned a unanimous verdict that Holden was guilty as charged.
Holden was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail, and ordered that he pay a $500 fine and court costs.
Additionally, Ernest Todd Holden is required to get a substance abuse assessment and complete 48 hours of community service.
“This is the last pending case that was charged by Trooper Brandon Peterson,” District Attorney Seth Banks said in a statement. “It is indicative of the quality of Trooper Peterson’s investigations and his work ethic that we were able to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt despite his untimely passing. He was truly an exemplary law enforcement officer who continues to be missed by all of us who had the privilege of knowing him."