July 30, 2014

Elyria
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test

Lawyer says cops may have altered evidence


ELYRIA – The attorney for a Lorain man accused of killing a woman after fleeing police during a drunken driving stop has asked a county judge to dismiss the case against his client, saying Amherst police may have altered a key piece of videotaped evidence.

CHRONICLE FILE
Phillip Stern II

Dennis Evans, attorney for Phillip Stern II, said in his motion that a videotape from the Sept. 16, 2006, accident should have shown an officer putting a videotape in another officer`s cruiser, but it wasn`t on the tape.

“It clearly appears that there has been some tampering with the tape in this case,” Evans wrote, adding that the discrepancy was an act of “bad faith” on the part of Amherst police.

But Amherst police Lt. Joseph Kucirek took exception to the allegation.

“If he`s accusing us of doing something improper, we would take offense to that as a police department,” he said.

Kucirek said Amherst police provided prosecutors with a DVD copy of the videos that show Stern, 34, driving off after he was pulled over by Amherst officers on North Main Street. Prosecutors then gave a copy to defense attorneys.

The tapes also show the chase and the crash at Cooper-Foster Park and Leavitt roads when Stern`s Ford Ranger slammed into a Pontiac Grand Am driven by 51-year-old Sheila Pierce of Grafton, who was killed instantly. Stern also was injured in the crash.

Evans also contends that police never had a reason to stop Stern since there was no videotaped evidence of him driving erratically, as police contend.

Kucirek said that even if the officer from the initial stop had a videotape in his cruiser, it wouldn`t have started recording until after the officer activated his overhead lights.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he doesn`t believe anything was changed on the tape, but his office will look at whatever evidence Evans wants to put forward at a hearing.

“There`s no reason to erase or alter the tape,” Will said.

In other court documents, Evans questioned the legitimacy of blood tests conducted at CHP Regional Medical Center. He wrote in court documents that police didn`t have a reason to take a sample and that Stern refused alcohol tests from police and the hospital.

Police have said Stern had a blood alcohol content of .238, nearly three times the legal limit of .08.

Evans did not return a call seeking comment.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.