The state trooper who was ticketed for speeding while driving Gov. Terry Branstad earlier this year has been convicted after he didn’t appear to fight the ticket in court today.
Though, in most circumstances, a ticket payment is equivalent to a guilty plea, the a clerk at the Hamilton County Clerk’s office said the ticket was paid twice and the judge wanted to give Lawrence the chance to appear in case there was any confusion because the clerk’s office is not able to identify who made the payments.
The conviction comes after Larry Hedlund, a former veteran investigator with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, spotted the speeding SUV — which was carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds — on April 26. Hedlund was put on paid leave two days after he complained that the vehicle was not stopped. According to a termination letter released by the department, he was fired July 17, but state officials said his termination was not linked to the complaint.
Though State Trooper Matt Eimers pursued the vehicle, he later stopped after realizing the car was being driven by Lawrence, a fellow trooper. Eimers was not disciplined.
Lawrence was cited for driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone on Highway 20 in Hamilton County, according to the Public Safety Department. He was given a $181.50 speeding ticket July 25, after completion of a review of the incident by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
The ticket was first paid by Hedlund. At the time, Lawrence said the ticket was paid without his consent, at which point he sent a letter to the court asking for the money to be returned, and more time to think about whether or not he wanted to fight the ticket.
Magistrate Joseline Greenley then issued an order that set aside the guilty plea and refunded Hedlund’s payment.
The clerk said the ticket was later paid a second time and Lawrence did not appear at his court date earlier today, prompting today’s sentencing order . The clerk said the clerk of court’s office is not able to identify who made either payment on the ticket.
Lawrence could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.