On Thursday, May 24, North Carolina State Representative Larry W. Womble (D—71st District) was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. The charges stem from a fatal traffic accident in late 2011.
Around 11:00 p.m. on December 2, 2011, Womble crossed the yellow centerline of Reynolds Park Road in Winston-Salem and crashed into the car being driven by David Carmichael, 55, a waiter and bartender in Winston-Salem. Carmichael was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Toxicology tests revealed that Carmichael had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, but Womble had no alcohol in his system.
The warrant for Womble’s arrest said he “unlawfully and willfully caused” Carmichael’s death by failing to maintain control of his vehicle in his proper lane.
Womble, who has been blind in one eye and confined to a wheelchair since the traffic accident, reported to the county magistrate’s office to be advised of the charges against him. The Forsyth County politician, age 70, was released on a written promise to return to court in July.
Womble’s attorney, David Freedman, said his client had no comments for the press. “He feels horrible about what happened,” Freedman said.
In a departure from conventional procedure, the case is being prosecuted by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. The Forsyth County District Attorney normally would bring charges, but prosecutor Jim O’Neill has political differences with Womble and asked the Attorney General’s office to take over the case to avoid accusations that the prosecution is politically motivated.
If convicted, Womble faces a maximum sentence of 45 days in jail and a fine. Freedman told reporters that it was unlikely the assemblyman would serve a jail term because he has no criminal record. A conviction could also require that Womble surrender his driving license, but he has not driven a vehicle since the crash.
Womble began his political career thirty years ago when elected to the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen. He was first elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1995 and is currently serving his ninth term. He announced earlier this year that he will not seek reelection.