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Crime North Royalton police officer’s report, testimony in DUI case included ‘downright fabrications,' prosecutor says

17:55  20 november  2019
17:55  20 november  2019 Source:   cleveland.com

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cellphone video shows that a North Royalton police officer included “ downright fabrications ” in a police report and then lied on the witness stand after an April 2018 drunken driving arrest, a prosecutor told a jury on Tuesday. Special prosecutor John Ricotta told

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cellphone video shows that a North Royalton police officer included “downright fabrications” in a police report and then lied on the witness stand after an April 2018 drunken driving arrest, a prosecutor told a jury on Tuesday.

a man wearing a suit and tie: North Royalton police officer Steven Zahursky, left, sits next to defense attorney Henry Hilow on his first day of trial Monday on charges of perjury.© Cory Shaffer, Cleveland.com, /Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com/cleveland.com/TNS North Royalton police officer Steven Zahursky, left, sits next to defense attorney Henry Hilow on his first day of trial Monday on charges of perjury.

Special prosecutor John Ricotta told jurors in opening statements of officer Steve Zahursky’s trial on charges of perjury, falsification and tampering with records that they will get a chance to compare that video to Zahursky’s police report and an audio recording of his October 2018 testimony at a court hearing in Parma Municipal Court.

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North Royalton police officer Steve Zahursky is charged with perjury, tampering with evidence and falsification in connection with an April 2018 drunken “ Officer Zahursky didn’t win the award for most DUI arrests and convictions in Cuyahoga County year after year after year simply because he showed

“I’m confident you’ll find [Zahursky] tampered with that record, he falsified that information, and that he perjured himself in that hearing,” Ricotta said. “If you do your duty, and you follow your oath, you’ll find him guilty as charged.”

Jury selection began Monday in Common Pleas Court Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold’s room.

The case stems from an October 2018 court hearing in which Parma Municipal Court Judge Timothy Gilligan dismissed all charges against 22-year-old Austin Smith-Skinner. Cellphone video Smith-Skinner recorded during his arrest was played during that hearing. It contradicted what Zahursky wrote in a police report and then testified to earlier in the hearing about Smith-Skinner’s behavior during a field-sobriety test, prosecutors said.

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North Royalton police officer Steve Zahursky made his first court appearance Friday after a grand About a dozen uniformed North Royalton police officers stood outside the courtroom during the hearing Read More: Decorated North Royalton police officer ’ s trial testimony under investigation.

North Royalton police officer Steven Zahursky was charged in a Friday indictment with perjury North Royalton police officer Steven Zahursky is also charged with tampering with evidence and Sidoti said he has already begun negotiations with the city to discuss settling the case before he files

Zahursky wrote in the report that Smith-Skinner slurred his words 27 times during their interaction. He also wrote that Smith-Skinner swayed and raised his hands to a “cross-like height” during two of the tests.

North Royalton police do not have dash or body cameras. Without Smith-Skinner’s cellphone video, Zahursky’s report would have been the only official record of the arrest.

At an Oct. 22, 2018 hearing in Parma Municipal Court before Judge Timothy Gilligan, Zahursky testified to a similar account that was in his police report.

Smith-Skinner’s defense attorney, Anthony Manning, then played a copy of Smith-Skinner’s video, and Gilligan recalled Zahursky to the stand and grilled him about the discrepancies between the video and Zahursky’s report and testimony.

Gilligan later dismissed the charges against Smith-Skinner, and blasted Zahursky’s conduct in his order.

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The North Royalton police chief, however, said previously he believes the judge' s ruling, which states the officer ' s report contained "falsehoods and misstatements," is a personal attack. North Royalton Police Chief Kenneth Bilinovich suspended Zahursky for one day after an internal investigation found

North Royalton police officer Steven Zahursky, left, sits next to defense attorney Henry Hilow on his first day of trial Monday on charges of perjury. A conviction of the felony perjury charge he faces would strip him of his ability to be a police officer .

“Such dishonesty stains the badge of all courageous police officers dedicated to protect and serve,” Gilligan wrote.

Gilligan is expected to testify against Zahursky at trial, Ricotta said.

Zahursky’s lawyer, Daniel Misiewicz, never denied in his opening statements that the video contradicts what Zahursky wrote.

He instead accused Smith-Skinner of manipulating the video, and questioned whether it was an accurate. The accusation is based on the findings of a forensic analyst that Misiewicz and fellow defense attorney Henry Hilow hired.

The analyst, who is also expected to testify at trial on behalf of the defense, found that Smith-Skinner downloaded the video to a laptop, then put it back on a cellphone that had been wiped clean before he gave the phone to investigators.

“They’re calling out Steve, a police officer and you’ll see how decorated he is, his liberty and his career, in front of his community and his family, when they never properly preserved this evidence, and it’s been manipulated by this individual,” Misiewicz said.

Defense attorneys cited the findings in a last-minute attempt on the eve of trial to keep Ricotta from being able to play the video in court. Strickland Saffold rejected their argument and denied the motion.

The video will also show that Smith-Skinner admitted to drinking earlier in the night and that he fell down during one of the tests, Misiewicz said. And Zahursky had stopped Smith-Skinner before and would be in a position to know whether Smith-Skinner’s speech was actually slurred, Misiewicz said.

“Whether or not someone’s speech is slurred is a subjective thing,” Misiewicz said.

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