CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Steven Zahursky is the top police officer in Ohio for the number of arrests he’s made of drunk drivers.
Now, he is on unpaid leave and facing criminal charges over an arrest that a suspect caught on tape.
As he waited to be arraigned on Friday, he was asked if he had anything to say. He offered no comment.
He was then told, “If you change your mind, just let us know. We want to tell your side of this.”
“Thank you,” was his response.
He appeared shaken as he waited to enter the arraignment room. Clearly, it was a different experience from the many times he’s filed reports that let to hundreds of others being charged.
His troubles began after the video surfaced.
On his police report and in court, Zahursky claimed the man slurred his words during a stop. A section where the officer says he slurred appears to show the man counting and speaking clearly. After reaching 30, he asked the officer if he should go further.
The suspect, Austin Smith-Skinner, took the video to attorney Anthony Manning, who got Zahursky to demonstrate on the stand what he meant by slurring before playing the video.
“What his demonstration of what slurring was because his slurring compared to what Austin’s was was night and day. That’s exactly what Judge Gilligan found. That there was no slurring, no impairment by Austin,” said Manning.
Cleveland 19 reviewed dozens of Zahursky’s arrest reports and found many read virtually identically, almost as if written from a template.
“This is almost identical. The OVI investigation field notes. This is what I went to right away and they’re almost almost completely identical.” said Attorney Joseph Pattituce.
About 20 officers, most from North Royalton, gathered in support and were briefed after the arraignment by attorney Henry Hilow.