Wednesday, June 18, 2008

July Finale for Davis Trial

Closing arguments in the DWI trial of Councilman Don Davis will take place in July, a Scotch Plains municipal judge declared Wednesday after about three hours of testimony.

“I am approaching the state of being fried,” Judge Antonio Inacio said Tuesday after 10 hours on the bench that concluded with 15 pages of notes on the Davis case.

“This case is a quagmire to me,” he said, citing conflicting evidence on the March 28, 2007 incident in which Davis was stopped, tested and arrested.

Issues include whether Davis was legally intoxicated as well as whether it could be proved he was he was driving while intoxicated.

Plainfield Detective Edwin Maldonado said he was in the process of writing out a ticket for illegal parking of the councilman’s van near a Front Street pizzeria on that day when Davis exited the restaurant, waved at the officer and drove about 100 feet west when he stopped due to being pulled over by Maldonado’s unmarked police car.

Maldonado said he called Sgt. Jeffrey Plum once he detected an odor of alcohol from Davis. Within 10 minutes, Plum conducted a field sobriety test, parts of which Davis failed. A second test was conducted at Plainfield Police headquarters and because city alcohol testing equipment failed, Davis was transported to Fanwood for a breath test.

Plum attested to signs that Davis was intoxicated, but Davis attorney James Trabilsy and expert witness Herbert Leckie poked numerous holes in the testimony by citing standards for making DWI assessments that they allege were not followed in the tests. Issues included instructions to the accused before the tests and scores resulting from them, as well as qualifications of officers making the tests.

Leckie described standards developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that he said were not followed in the tests described in testimony Wednesday. For example, a “walk-and-turn” test required nine steps, not the five steps described by Plainfield police. While Plum described a test involving picking up a quarter in which Davis nearly fell to the ground, Leckie discounted the test as not valid, in part due to Davis being about 50 pounds overweight and thus disqualified for the test. Further, the test itself was not recognized by the national agency, Leckie said.

Davis was repeatedly described as both professional and apologetic in his dealings with authorities in the incident. A police station video played at the trial showed him wiping away tears and repeatedly apologizing for the incident.

Davis, who lost a primary bid June 3 for a second four-year term, was joined Wednesday by his parents, wife and daughter at the trial. After the lengthy session, one family member wished out loud that the case would have been resolved Tuesday.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad that the integrity of these officers is being questioned here. And for what I understand even their training is being questioned.

Where is Don Davis's integrity? And where is his support for the Plainfield Police Department and Plainfield?

Him getting absolved of charges will mean to ridicule our Plainfield police. His absolution will cost him a good amount of money, but Plainfield is already paying a higher price for allowing such clowns to be "leaders".

Shame on Don Davis.

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. The Plainfield police department must know that the people of Plainfield appreciate their efforts, and cannot be dismissed because of a technicality.

How about Don Davis talking about bad choices?

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 steps, 9 steps - What's the difference. If you can't walk 5 steps, how is someone going to be able to walk 9.

And I'm sure if he saw a quarter on the ground he would certainly bend over to pick it up and put it in his pocket. Oh wait, after rethinking that one, he might just include an extra 25 cents on his bar tab for the city to reimburse him if he was not able to pick it up.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree. Dismal politician but dismal Police? Let's hope not.

If Don is let off the hook on a technicality, it will be a shame.

This will tell us that the Plainfield Police department cannot even get a simple DWI to stick.


3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say throw the bum out of office....the sooner , the better for Plainfield...

8:38 PM  

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