July 23, 2002 at 12:11 AM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:45 PM
ASHLAND, Ohio (AP) - A former police chief who staged a traffic stop to cover up an accidental shooting was convicted Monday of felony charges of forgery and theft in office.
Former Perrysville Police Chief Tim Sommer pleaded guilty to two counts of theft in office and one count of forgery. He pleaded no contest to one count of making false alarms and two counts of theft in office.
Some of the charges resulted from an investigation of his tenure by the Ashland County prosecutor's office and sheriff's department following the staged traffic stop. The investigation found Sommer forged payroll checks and stole $1,550 donated for bulletproof vests and $1,245 in fines.
"Basically, he has accepted his responsibility on the charges," said Sommer's attorney Andrew Hyde. Sommer made no statement during the hearing.
Ashland County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Runyan found Sommer guilty on all charges and set sentencing for Aug. 26 after continuing his $10,000 bond. Sommer faces up to eight years in prison and, as part of his plea, cannot hold a public office in Ohio again.
Sommer, 52, admitted to investigators that he staged a traffic stop March 19 to cover up accidentally shooting a hole in the windshield of his cruiser.
While staging the traffic stop, Sommer accidentally shot himself in the leg. In a frantic call to dispatchers, the chief said he was shot by a man in a white car that he had stopped for not having license plates.
After Sommer radioed for assistance, 43 law enforcement officers responded to the scene, and at least one person was mistakenly taken into custody.
Sommer "eroded the public's trust," Ashland County Prosecutor Robert DeSanto said Monday. "When you have theft and dishonesty by a police officer it's damaging to the justice system."
The Perrysville Village Council fired Sommer April 1.
He became Perrysville's police chief in December 1999. A decade ago, he received a six-month suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to using a Morrow County Sheriff's Department credit card to buy gasoline for personal use while he was a sheriff's deputy.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)