Prosecutor rips judge who 'falsely' accused LMPD officer of lying on stand
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An internal investigation has been opened against a Louisville Metro Police Officer who was accused by a judge of providing "false" testimony during a recent drunk driving case.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that on Aug. 25, the department’s professional standards unit began investigating Officer Jeff Ebernez on allegations he lied while testifying in a DUI case in January.
In a July 31 ruling, Jefferson District Court Judge Stephanie Burke wrote that Eberenz's "false" testimony was "extremely troublesome," and she ruled a traffic stop was not proper, effectively throwing out all evidence in a DUI case.
However, late last week, the county attorney’s office appealed Burke’s decision to Jefferson Circuit Court, saying the judge was “incorrect” and that to accuse Ebernez of lying on the stand was “to misperceive" what actually happened.
“Because of a less than careful approach to the record in this case, an excellent police officer has been incorrectly and falsely accused by a sitting judge of perjury,” Assistant County Attorney Ben Wyman wrote in the appeal, asking a higher judge to reverse Burke’s order.
The controversial testimony took place 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.
The county attorney’s office, however, argued that while Ebernez does not calibrate his radar device, he does “check the calibration at the beginning of every shift” with tuning forks.
Judge Burke also “improperly” relied on LMPD policy and procedure for radar units provided by the department, the county attorney’s office argues. Ebernez, like many officers, bought his own radar gun, which prosecutors claim has a different standard.
Wyman, the prosecutor who wrote the appeal, argued that Ebernez “was a model officer who testified truthfully.”
Defense attorney Gregory Simms, who represents Wagner, said there is no different standard for calibrating a personal radar gun rather than one issued by the department. And he said last week that Eberenz'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.
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."
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