Sonic Automotive CEO Indicted on Assault Charge in Choking Case

Sonic Automotive Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Smith has been indicted on four charges related to his October arrest for an alleged assault on a woman, according to the district attorney’s office in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County.

Smith, 46, was charged Monday with assault by strangulation, false imprisonment, assault on a female and interfering with emergency communications, said Meghan McDonald, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 18.

Sonic Automotive CEO Indicted on Assault Charge in Choking Case

A representative for Charlotte-based Sonic, one of the largest automotive dealership chains in the U.S., didn’t immediately return a request for comment. George Laughrun, Smith’s lawyer, wasn’t immediately available for comment but previously said Smith intends to plead not guilty.

Smith, the son of Sonic’s billionaire co-founder and Chairman O. Bruton Smith, was arrested Oct. 5 after a woman in her twenties reported an assault to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. According to the arrest warrant, the woman said Smith tried to strangle her and knocked a phone out of her hand when she tried to call for help. Within a day of that arrest, Sonic’s board issued a statement saying it believes the CEO was innocent and pledged its “steadfast” support.

Governance watchdogs have called for the board to mount a stronger corporate response, such as putting the CEO on paid leave and forming a committee of independent directors to further investigate the matter. The board has 11 seats, three of which are held by Smith family members.

Smith took the helm at Sonic in 2018 following in the footsteps of his brother, Scott Smith, who had a three-year tenure as CEO. The car-dealership chain went public in 1997.

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