By Linda Looney-Bond
There is no evidence that NASCAR team owner Billy Ballew placed the public in danger prior to his DUI arrest at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton March 4, according to Henry County Solicitor General Charles Spahos.
In an administrative dismissal of DUI charges against James William "Billy" Ballew, 49, of Blairsville, filed in state court on Monday, Solicitor Spahos said a jury would have a difficult time convicting Ballew beyond a reasonable doubt, based on the facts of the case, and, therefore, "the State declines to file charges against the defendant at this time."
Billy Ballew Motorsports Spokesperson Sandra Vorse released a statement noting that the case had been dropped. However, she declined to comment on the development, saying the team just wants to "move forward." Vorse also said there would be no comment from Ballew on Thursday.
According to the dismissal document, the incident started when a vehicle Ballew was driving was stopped on Atlanta Motor Speedway property at a credential checkpoint for entrance into the in-field of the race track. A Henry County sheriff's deputy observed a beer can in the possession of a passenger and detained the vehicle for further investigation.
The sheriff's deputy "conducted an investigation into the defendant's [Ballew] level of intoxication that included a series of field sobriety tests," court records state.
Ballew admitted that he was carrying a mixed drink in the car, but denied that he was drunk, according to published reports.
Court documents state that Ballew refused to take a breathalyzer test, and was arrested. He was released on bond March 5.
In the dismissal of charges, Spahos said the statements of two passengers in the vehicle confirmed Ballew's statement about the amount of alcohol he had consumed, and also confirmed that the vehicle had been traveling on private property "between the condominiums on the race property, and the in-field of the race track, and that they never left race property."
Solicitor Spahos went on to say, "the consuming of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle on private property is not in, and of itself, illegal in the State of Georgia. A jury will have to find that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that he was less safe."
The traffic citation issued to Ballew said he was in violation of Georgia Code Section 40-6-391 (a) (1). That portion of the code states that "a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive."
Spahos referred to the code in his dismissal notice, saying thar the first deputy, who encountered Ballew at the checkpoint, "makes no reference to smelling alcohol, or seeing any evidence that the defendant was impaired. No one observed any driving behavior that reached the level of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was a less safe driver."
Ballew has owned a condominium at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 1996, according to his spokesperson. He is a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner. Drivers who work for him in the series are Kyle Busch, Mark Mitchell and Shane Sieg.
Past drivers for Ballew include Denny Hamlin, Bill Lester, John Andretti, Jeremy Mayfield, Geoffrey Bodine, Rich Bickle, Joe Ruttman and Bobby Gill.