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Cops and Courts

Sheffield Council member pleads no contest to driving charges


AVON LAKE — Sheffield Councilwoman Carolyn White pleaded no contest Tuesday to driving under suspension, reckless operation and obstructing official business for a January crash in which she struck a Lorain County Transit bus stop shelter with her car and left the scene.

An additional charge of falsification against White, 59, was dropped as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. She was fined $1,000 and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence, according to Avon Lake Municipal Court records.

White’s driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash because of a December arrest on a DUI charge that was later reduced.

White said the crash took place in a blizzard and she was looking forward to putting this matter behind her and continuing her work as a Sheffield councilwoman.

“I’ve accepted responsibility for what happened in Sheffield Village,” White said. “I realize I made some choices that maybe I should have handled differently.”

White’s attorney, Anthony Baker, said he was glad his client’s most recent case was resolved.

“I’m happy that it’s over,” Baker said. “She can resume her life, her career and serving the folks of Sheffield Village.”

A police report on the incident stated a witness saw White’s Lincoln collide with the bus shelter, shattering the glass and damaging the frame, on Jan. 2. The witness also told police that the vehicle “appeared to (be) driving too fast for the weather conditions and slid prior to the accident,” the report stated.

By the time police arrived at the corner of Abbe Road and Hoag Drive, White was gone, but officers found the damaged Lincoln in the parking lot of a nearby medical building where White had a physical therapy appointment.

White left a message with Lorain County Transit informing the agency of the crash and also called Sheffield Police Chief Larry Bliss on his cell phone to report the crash. During that call, Bliss wrote in his report, White claimed that her 26-year-old son, Jerrell White, had been the one driving the vehicle.

Bliss also wrote that he told Officer Jose Soto, the investigating officer, that there were discrepancies between the witness account that put White behind the wheel and her claim that her son was driving.

Soto wrote that he went to White’s house and White let him speak with her son.

“Jerrell came up and was very confused of the events that took place at the scene of the accident. When he was asked what happened, he paused and looked at Ms. White for answers,” Soto wrote. “He then advised he hit a ‘bus stop thing.’ ”

When he got back to the station, Soto told Bliss that he felt the story he was getting from the Whites wasn’t truthful.

Soto then interviewed two independent witnesses, who put Carolyn White behind the wheel of the car at the time of the crash.

On Jan. 7, the report said, White called Bliss to complain about the investigation, saying that officers had upset a physical therapist at the medical building where she attended therapy by asking questions about the crash.

When Bliss told her there were other witnesses who said the driver was female, White said they were wrong and that it was her son who was driving, the chief wrote.

“She further stated that she wished I would have let her know before we began an investigation,” he wrote.

Soto and another officer went back to White’s house on Jan. 8 and talked with Jerrell White, who declined to speak with officers about the crash at his mother’s direction, the report said. While talking with him, police smelled marijuana and confronted Jerrell White about it and his mother, who wasn’t home at the time, gave them permission over the phone to search the house. The report said police found two small bags of marijuana in the basement.

Jerrell White pleaded no contest to possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia during a court appearance Tuesday. Additional charges of falsification and obstructing official business were dropped, according to court records.

Carolyn White’s term on Village Council expires in 2015.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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