Sonic Automotive Inc. CEO David Smith will plead not guilty to charges including felony assault by strangulation related to an alleged October incident with a 22-year-old woman in Charlotte, N.C., his lawyer told Automotive News.
Smith on Tuesday waived his probable-cause hearing in Mecklenburg County District Court in which Smith’s lawyer, George Laughrun, appeared on Smith’s behalf, Jessica Davis, public information officer in the Mecklenburg County trial court administrator’s office, wrote in an email to Automotive News.
Defendants have rights to probable-cause hearings, which are used to determine if there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and if the defendant is believed to be the one who committed the crime. The waiver of the hearing is often procedural and does not equate to any admission of guilt.
The case will move to Mecklenburg County Superior Court because one of the charges against Smith is a felony, Davis said. His next court date, in which Smith would be due to enter a plea, hasn’t been scheduled.
Smith, 46, also faces charges of false imprisonment, assault on a female and interfering with emergency communication. Laughrun declined to comment further.
Smith, who has led the nation’s sixth-largest new-vehicle retailer since 2018, was arrested Oct. 5. The woman, who is not related to Smith, told the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that she was assaulted and unlawfully restrained at a Charlotte home. She had minor injuries of bruises and scratches, according to the police report.
Smith, son of Sonic co-founder and Executive Chairman Bruton Smith, spent a night in the Mecklenburg County Jail and was released on $30,000 bail.
Sonic’s board, led by Bruton Smith, issued a statement following Smith’s arrest saying that it remained “steadfast in its support” of Smith and indicated Smith had told the board he was innocent of the charges.