December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Attorneys for Grafton mayor ask that evidence be tossed

Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan gives a brief statement at the council meeting on Tuesday evening, just days after she was charged with drunken driving. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan gives a brief statement at the Council meeting days after she was charged with drunken driving. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Lawyers for Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan have asked the judge presiding over her case to throw out most of the evidence gathered against her when she was arrested for DUI on Sept. 28.

In court documents filed in Elyria Municipal Court earlier this month, defense attorney Jack Bradley wrote the field sobriety tests Flanigan performed for Lorain County sheriff’s Deputy Adam Trifiletti weren’t administered properly.

Trifiletti was one of the deputies called into investigate after Grafton police Officer Anthony Camera came across Flanigan’s damaged Chevrolet SUV near the intersection of Fox Run and Hunting Hollow around 3 a.m.

Flanigan has pleaded not guilty to DUI, failure to stop after an accident and failure to control charges as well as a misdemeanor drug possession charge for a single pill that was found in the back of the patrol car after she was taken into custody. Testing determined the pill was a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, that together mimic the effects of opiates to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

A video of Flanigan’s interaction with law enforcement shows Trifiletti first having Flanigan follow an object with her eyes, a test he wrote in his report that she failed.

Bradley wrote that Trifiletti moved through the test too fast and didn’t test Flanigan’s right eye twice as required. He also wrote that the gaze test should take approximately 82 seconds and Trifiletti completed the procedure in about 44 seconds.

He also wrote that prosecutors shouldn’t be able to use the evidence of Flanigan during a one-leg stand test, during which she nearly fell twice, and a walk-and-turn test in which she stumbles twice on the video.

Flanigan had told Trifiletti that she had a sprained ankle and Bradley said because of her physical problems the two tests weren’t “reliable indicators as to whether Ms. Flanigan was under the influence of alcohol based on her physical condition.”

Without proper tests, Bradley argued, there was no reason for Flanigan to be arrested and taken for a breath test, which she refused.

North Ridgeville Prosecutor Toni Morgan, who is handling the case because Grafton Prosecutor Matt Mishak removed himself from the case due to a conflict of interest, wrote in a response filed Thursday that the tests taken by Flanigan were valid and officers had good reason to arrest the mayor.

“The video, viewed by the Defendant, indicates that the officer found the license plate and parts of the vehicle in a field in which the Defendant either denies driving in and/or has no knowledge of how the parts got there,” Morgan wrote. “She had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage about her person and heavy slurred speech. She denied drinking as well. Furthermore her performance on all field sobriety tests indicates an impaired ability to drive.”

Morgan also wrote the impact of a sprained ankle on Flanigan’s ability to take field sobriety tests was something a judge or jury would decide at trial, although she acknowledged Bradley had raised sufficient reason to hold a hearing on the results of the gaze test.

Bradley also argued that statements Flanigan made to police that were recorded on the video and her refusal to take a breath test shouldn’t be used against her.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7174 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.