CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The woman who said her vehicle was struck by a state senator facing a DUI charge spoke to the media Tuesday morning in Charleston.
Michaela Caddin, 21, said she was rear-ended by a car driven by State Sen. Paul Campbell on I-26 Saturday night.
Caddin spoke to reporters with her attorney, Matt Yelverton, at her side, giving her account of the crash.
Reading a statement, she said she pulled into the emergency lane and Campbell's car pulled into the emergency lane in front of her.
She said she witnessed Campbell, who was driving at the time of the collision, and his wife, who was a passenger, both get out of the vehicle and switch places.
"I saw a man who was driving get out from behind the steering wheel, and walk around the back of his car," she said. "My lights were shining on him. And the woman in the passenger seat got out and walked behind her car through my headlights toward the driver's side door. I then saw the woman get into the driver's seat. I saw the man get into the passenger seat."
Caddin said she called her fiance and 911.
Caddin said after a few moments, Campbell got back out of the car and approached her vehicle. She said he asked several times for her to move her car and she said she told him she had called 911 and said she was not going to move her vehicle until authorities responded.
"He then handed me his business card and said, 'Let me know what you'd like to do,'" she said. Caddin said she had no idea Campbell was a state senator until he showed her his Senate business card.
"I was shocked when I heard the story he told the media, I was shocked when he smiled as my mom spoke for me at his bond hearing," she said. "When she said that because of him, she could be planning a funeral instead of a wedding, he smiled. I was afraid when I saw a man entrusted with so much power say something that was so different from what I saw happen."
According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, they were called at about 9:15 p.m. to investigate a two-vehicle collision on I-26 westbound, near mile marker 204, in Berkeley County.
Troopers said the crash occurred after one vehicle was struck in the rear by another vehicle in congested traffic.
According to an incident report, both vehicles were traveling westbound on I-26 when Caddin's car slowed for traffic ahead of her and Campbell's car, which was following too closely, struck the rear of Caddin's car.
During the investigation, troopers said there was a discrepancy in who was driving the at-fault vehicle at the time of the collision, but said it was determined after talking with both parties of the crash that the driver was Paul Campbell.
Campbell was administered a field sobriety test and, as a result of those tests, was arrested for driving under the influence. The incident report states he told a trooper he did not believe he was "DUI," and said he was probably "around a .03 or a .05." Campbell was taken to the Charleston County Detention Center and provided a breath sample after a 20-minute observation period and the sample registered a .09 on the Data Master, the report states.
He was charged with driving under the influence and providing false information to police.
Caddin said she decided to hold the news conference because she received multiple requests for a statement on the incident, but because she has a full-time job and is planning a wedding, she would make one statement for everyone.
"I am also here today because I was raised to believe that ethics, honesty and accountability are important," she said. "I don't know where Sen. Campbell was before he crashed into me. I don't know how much he had to drink. But I do believe in the legal process, which includes the law enforcement officers who showed the utmost professionalism and were not afraid in the face of a powerful guy who could probably make their lives difficult."
She says she believes in the judicial system and that Campbell is entitled to a fair trial.
"I believe that everybody, regardless of their position or wealth, should be held accountable by our legal system," she said. "I'm not a lawyer and I don't know about the details of that process. I only know what I experienced on Saturday night."
Yelverton said it's not clear what Campbell meant when he handed Caddin his business card and told her to let him know what she wished to do.
"She tried not to read into that as she was trying to respond to 911," he said. "There was not any direct overture towards any kind of payment or any kind of settlement on the side of the road. That's not what she's insinuating. It was just a matter of he chose to hand her that card and she had no idea who Sen. Campbell was until later on, on the side of the road, she looked at the card."
Yelverton said he expects to file a civil lawsuit against Campbell later this week if Campbell does not own up to the accident.
"I encourage the senator to reflect on this and to take responsibility and make himself accountable," Yelterton said.
He said the state Senate is a self-regulating body and that a misdemeanor does not result in any kind of forced resignation, but he said he personally feels that the Senate owes it to the citizens of the state to ensure that elected officials are held to a high standard.
He said while he couldn't speak for the Senate's view or Caddin, he said he feels that if a public official did, in fact, lie to law enforcement, that public official should resign.
Campbell's attorney, Andy Savage, released the following statement:
I have not completed our investigation of the facts and circumstances of the traffic accident that Mr. and Mrs. Campbell were involved in Saturday evening. To comment on the accident beyond to say that the Campbells were at fault would be premature.
I do know that they are relieved that no one was injured and I know that they would insure the prompt payment of reasonable damages including repairs to his client's automobile, a rental vehicle if she is deprived of the use of her vehicle as it undergoes repairs, lost wages if the accident caused her to lose time at work and any other incidental costs she incurred.
I cannot comment on the motives of Mr. Yelverton (I do not know him very well although he once practiced in our building with Mr Paul Thurmond's firm) in what appears to be an unnecessary law suit or how a call for the resignation of Mr. Campbell is related to the purposes of a law suit. If he is trying to generate publicity for his firm or if he is thinking about running for office that would explain his actions but I have no idea what his intent was and therefore decline to comment.