JUDGE: LMPD officer gave "false" testimony during hearing in DUI case
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Police Officer provided "false" testimony during a drunk driving case, according to a recent judge's order, potentially putting dozens of the officer's other cases in jeopardy.
In a July 31 ruling, Jefferson District Court Judge Stephanie Burke wrote that Officer Jeff Eberenz's "false" testimony was "extremely troublesome," and she ruled the traffic stop was not proper, effectively throwing out all evidence in the case.
In a Jan. 21, hearing to determine whether Eberenz had probable cause to stop Justin Wagner for speeding – which led to the DUI charge – Eberenz testified that he had properly certified his radar gun and maintained it each shift.
"I check the calibration of the device daily, at the beginning of my shift," Eberenz said on the stand. "I use a tuning fork to verify stationary speed and two tuning forks to verify the calibration for moving speeds."
However, in May, maintenance records for the radar gun showed that it had not been properly certified since April 2011, nearly three years before Eberenz stopped Wagner.
"It is almost without question that Officer Eberenz knew his statements were false," Burke wrote. "It would be difficult to imagine that Officer Eberenz would be unfamiliar with the maintenance history of the machine which he relies upon on a regular, if not daily basis, particularly when he was so emphatic in his testimony to the contrary."
In addition, Eberenz testified that Wagner failed to use his turn signal, but the officer's in car video "did not provide support" for that statement or that Wagner was speeding, Burke wrote.
"It's not an oversight," said attorney Gregory Simms, who represents Wagner, talking about the radar gun testimony. "An officer knows his machine. He uses this machine daily."
Simms said Wagner's testimony could "affect all of his existing cases. When an officer gives false testimony under oath, that negatively affects the officer for good."
Eberenz has dozens of pending DUI and speeding cases.
Also, Simms said prosecutors should dismiss the case as they now "have no evidence."
But Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for the County Attorney's office, said they disagree with Burke's ruling and are "exploring our options to challenge that in court. We do not believe the officer gave false testimony."
Halladay declined to offer specifics.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad told WDRB in late 2013 that as part of a new policy at the time, he had put the department's officers on notice that any violations involving untruthfulness "will likely lead to termination from this department."
However, Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for LMPD, said that while department is aware of the judge's ruling "as of right now, there is no investigation."
Mitchell said Eberenz remains on active duty. He declined to comment further.
"It's the lack of action that perpetuates the virus of police misconduct," Simms said of the department's reaction.
The case started on Jan. 26, 2014, when Eberenz pulled Wagner over on Seminary Drive for speeding and failing to signal when turning right, according to the police report.
Wagner smelled of alcohol, admitted to drinking three to four beers and failed a field sobriety test, the report said.
In addition, Wagner blew a .103 on the breathalyzer machine at Metro Corrections, according to the report. The legal limit in Kentucky is .08.
The case is scheduled to be back in court in November. However, if prosecutors challenge Burke's ruling, the case could be heard within the week.
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