State Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia) is now looking to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in hopes of ending the year-plus long legal saga kick started by her DUI arrest in April 2011.
Attorney Joseph Kelly, who is representing Parker, said Friday that the appeal centers on whether it was appropriate for a judge to overturn another judge’s ruling on the basis of a social media friendship.
“We think the judge made an error of law,” said Kelly, who appeared briefly in court for a status hearing.
In November, Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden ruled to suppress all evidence against the seven-year lawmaker after he deemed that the testimony given by the two arresting officers was not credible and therefore “impossible” for the court to accept.
The state Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, appealed that decision and asked that Hayden recuse himself from the proceedings after it came to light in the media that he and Parker were Facebook friends.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams recused his office from the case because of his real-life friendship with Parker.
Hayden denied both requests, prompting another Commonwealth appeal.
‘We’re in it for the long haul’
In a move that “shocked” Kelly, Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick ruled to reinstate all charges, saying that Hayden shouldn’t have taken the case given the pair’s social media connection.
“I find that the judge did abuse his discretion. It was improper of him not to have recused himself,” said Patrick during the mid-January hearing.
Kelly later filed a petition to appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. That request was denied at the end of March.
Kelly is now pursuing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which, similar to Superior Court, can choose whether or not to take the case. He said his client is steadfast in seeing the case through.
“She has not waivered one bit,” said Kelly of Parker, who did not attend Friday’s hearing. “She believes, that night, she did nothing wrong, was stopped in violation of her constitutional rights. We’re in it for the long-haul.”
Senior Deputy Attorney General John Flannery could not immediately be reached for comment.
If the Supreme Court denies Kelly’s request, the case will return to Common Pleas Court for trial. Kelly expects a decision in November.
The 2011 incident
Police pulled Parker over on April 30, 2011 in Germantown after they allegedly spotted her driving her state-issued car the wrong way down a one way stretch of Haines Street. Parker’s blood-alcohol-level that night was .16, twice the legal limit, according to police paperwork from the incident.
Police said Parker told them she had two beers and a chocolate martini at Club Champagne, a fact Parker later denied.
They also testified in September that Parker’s eyes were glassy, that her breath smelled of alcohol and that she had trouble standing and speaking during the stop. Parker also didn’t have her driver’s license, registration card or insurance card, they said.
In November, Hayden ruled that there were a number of inconsistencies during the testimonies of both Officer Israel Miranda and Officer Stephanie Allen.
Parker, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 200th Legislative District, which includes sections of the Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Roxborough neighborhoods in Philadelphia.