Henry Pierson Curtis
6:03 p.m. EST, January 20, 2010
KISSIMMEE - The Florida Highway Patrol trooper who lost his job last week — without state officials explaining why — is accused of fixing a traffic ticket for sex — more than a dozen times, court records show.
And trooper Wilfredo Bennett got caught by technology: His wife dialed an unknown number on his cell phone and ended up talking to the woman with whom her husband was carrying on affair, records state.
Bennett is accused of betraying his oath to uphold the law in return for regular sex. He pleaded not guilty this week, court records show. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
The former trooper's career began to fall apart in mid-November when his wife called an unknown number on his cell phone and introduced herself to Donna Michelle Herbst, a motorist with whom her husband had been having an affair, records show.
The women met and confronted Bennett at an undisclosed business he runs in Kissimmee, according to court records.
Herbst declined comment Wednesday. The Bennetts, who live in Poinciana, could not be reached for comment.
The saga began in September 2008 when Bennett ticketed an Osceola County motorist for careless driving following a two-car crash.
On Nov. 15, that motorist, Donna Michelle Herbst, told FHP investigators she and Bennett had sex about 20 times after he wrote her a ticket after the crash on Pleasant Hill Road and West U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee, court records state.
"Following the crash investigation, Trooper Bennett . . . explained her citation options. This included the option that he would not show up for court if she contested the ticket and she made dinner for him," an arrest affidavit states. "Herbst advised she called Trooper Bennett out of interest in him, not out of fear or obligation, but because he seemed like a cool guy to hang out with."
But court records show Herbst challenged her careless driving tickets days after the crash, which meant Bennett would have to testify against her in court or the case would be dropped.
In the months that followed, court records show, Bennett e-mailed the Osceola Clerk of Court claiming an injury would prevent him from testifying in Herbst's case and it could be dismissed if the court date could not be reset.
The trooper became upset when he learned Herbst cancelled the hearing and paid her $76 fine because "she stated she got a bad vibe and she did not want to get into trouble," court records state.
Herbst later told investigators by that time she had had sex with Bennett "six to seven times while the trooper was on duty and eleven to twelve times while he was off duty," the affidavit states.
Officials at FHP have refused to discuss allegations of ticket fixing for sex.
Last week, all inquiries about Bennett's arrest were referred to FHP headquarters in Tallahassee. Capt. Mark Welch, the agency's top spokesman, declined to release information about the single charge of "receiving unlawful compensation for official behavior" against Bennett, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation.
Welch could not be reached for comment Wednesday. It could not learned Wednesday if FHP is reviewing all crash cases in which Bennett, a 13-year veteran, forced prosecutors to drop traffic charges against female drivers when he failed to show up for court.
Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at 407-420-5257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tags: highway patrol, trooper, ticket fix, wife, sex, kissimmee baby, Florida
Location: Kissimmee, Florida, United States (load item map)
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