Sonic Automotive CEO David Smith arrested on assault charges

Sonic Automotive Inc. CEO David Smith spent a night in the Mecklenburg County Jail in North Carolina after he was arrested on four charges Monday, including assault by strangulation, according to the jail.

Smith, CEO of the nation’s sixth-largest new-vehicle retailer, was arrested at about 9:45 a.m. Monday and taken to the jail later that day, according to police and the jail. He was released around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.

He was arrested on a felony charge of assault by strangulation and misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment, assault on a female and interfering with emergency communication. Smith posted a $30,000 bond, according to the jail. He is scheduled back in court Oct. 20.

In a statement, Sonic’s board of directors said it “remains steadfast in its support” of Smith.

“We believe in David’s leadership, honesty and transparency, which he has demonstrated throughout his tenure as chief executive officer and over 20 years of service to the company,” the statement said. “David has informed the board that he is innocent of these charges and expects to be fully exonerated.”

An unidentified woman, 22, told police she was assaulted and unlawfully restrained without her consent at a home in Charlotte, N.C., according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department report.

The woman, who is not related to Smith, had minor injuries of bruises and scratches and was treated at the scene, according to the police report. The alleged incident occurred from about 10 p.m. Sunday until about 2:30 a.m. Monday, the police report states.

Smith couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Smith, 46, is a son of Sonic co-founder Bruton Smith. He was named CEO of Sonic in September 2018 when Smith’s brother, Scott Smith, stepped down.

Smith’s arrest was reported by WBTV and Fox 46.

Sonic, of Charlotte, N.C., ranks No. 6 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 114,131 new vehicles in 2019.