State Rep. Cherelle Parker scored a major victory in Common Pleas Court Tuesday after a city judge moved to toss out all evidence connected to her drunken-driving arrest in Germantown in late April.
Joseph Kelly, Parker’s attorney, was pleased with the ruling, saying that his client “feels vindicated”, while an attorney representing the Commonwealth found the decision troubling.
“She was offered [an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program] and declined it because she wanted to get to court and prove to the people of Philadelphia and her constituents that she was never traveling the wrong way [down Haines],” said Kelly. Parker would not comment after the hearing.
During a court appearance in late September, police testified that Parker was pulled over around midnight on April 30 after she was seen driving the wrong way down a one-way section of Haines Street. Kelly claims that Parker never drove down Haines, but nearby Baynton Street.
Police also said that a Breathalyzer test administered that night revealed that Parker’s blood-alcohol level was .16, double the legal limit. Kelly has claimed that the arresting officers were not properly trained to calibrate the Breathalyzer.
Judge Charles Hayden ruled Tuesday to suppress all evidence in the case after determining that Officers Israel Miranda and Stephanie Allen’s testimony was “impossible” for the court to accept.
Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo, representing the Commonwealth, was somewhat shocked by the decision.
“I’m surprised that two police officers, who were ostensibly sober, were found to be totally making up evidence wherein the accused who, according to the Breathalyzer, was less than sober is more able to testify accurately,” said Costanzo outside the courtroom Tuesday.
Upon further questioning, Costanzo essentially acknowledged that he felt Parker had benefited from her status as an elected official.
“I’ve been a Philadelphia resident for 52 years, I’ve lived here all my life, and I understand how things go around here. No I’m not surprised,” said Contanza.
The state Attorney General’s Office argued the case after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams recused his office from prosecuting the case because he is friends with Parker.
Judge Hayden did not mention Parker’s position during his decision, but did point to a number of inconsistencies that cropped up during police testimony given Sept. 21.
Hayden took issue with Miranda’s claim that he considered someone to be driving under the influence after consuming “one beer”. Kelly has said that Parker only drank one martini the night of the arrest.
Hayden also highlighted the officer’s initial claim that there were no other cars on the street when they made their arrest. Officer Allen later testified that there was a car between Parker and her squad car.
“This raises serious doubts about the police officer’s voracity and ability to observe,” said Hayden of the contradiction. He called Miranda’s testimony “woefully insufficient.”
Over the next 30 days, the state Attorney General’s Office will review the case and weigh the merits of an appeal. That decision will be publicly heard at the case’s next court date Dec. 19.
Asked about an appeal, Kelly said, “It’s very hard to overturn a judge when you make a credibility finding.”
Parker, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 200th Legislative District, which includes sections of the Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Roxborough neighborhoods in Philadelphia.