ELYRIA – Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will on Friday released dashboard camera video showing Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan stumbling several times during her Sept. 28 drunken driving arrest. (Watch the video here.)
North Ridgeville Prosecutor Toni Morgan, who is handling the case, had originally denied a public records request from The Chronicle-Telegram for the video.
Morgan had said that she never releases DUI arrest videos in cases she is prosecuting and cited a 1994 Ohio Supreme Court case that defendants can’t use public records laws to obtain evidence against them.
Will, however, said that while he didn’t believe Morgan acted in bad faith, he determined that the video was a public record and should be released. He said if the video of a police officer on patrol was a public record, it didn’t become confidential just because an arrest was made.
Similarly, Will said that if a public record was taken as evidence in an investigation it didn’t stop being a public record.
Flanigan has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.
Will’s office became involved in the case because of a hair band and pill found in the back of the patrol car used to transport Flanigan to the Lorain County Jail for a breath test, which she refused.
There is a question about whether Flanigan may have tried to conceal evidence, which could lead to a felony charge of tampering with evidence. Will said he is still reviewing the results of tests on the pill and couldn’t discuss what the test showed.
Dan Wightman, Flanigan’s lawyer, denied that the pill belonged to his client.
“The pill’s not hers,” he said.
The video begins with Grafton Police Officer Anthony Camera arriving at Flanigan’s Chevrolet SUV, which was pulled off to the side of the road near the intersection of Fox Run and Hunting Hollow around 3:22 a.m.
As Camera pulls up, Flanigan, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, gets out of the SUV and walks around the vehicle.
Camera asks her if she’s hurt.
“No, I’m fine, but my car is not,” Flanigan replies.
She explains that she pulled out of her nearby driveway to go pick up a friend and had trouble with her car.
Camera, who tells her to lean against the hood of his cruiser, goes on to ask her if she had struck a fire hydrant near where he found her license plate.
“I did not even get that far,” Flanigan says.
She also insists she doesn’t know what was wrong with her car.
“You don’t know how this happened?” Camera asks.
“No, I have no idea,” Flanigan says.
Both Camera and Lorain County Sheriff’s deputies, whom he called to handle the investigation because he had a conflict of interest, ask Flanigan if she had been drinking that night, something she repeatedly denies.
Camera also asks her about her permit to carry a concealed weapon. Flanigan informs him that while she does have a permit to carry a gun, she isn’t armed.
Will said that while he still needs to review the law on that matter, he believes that concealed carry permit holders are required to notify police immediately that they have a permit, even if they aren’t armed.
As Camera and Flanigan are waiting for deputies to arrive, he explains to her that her axle is basically broken and that her wheel is sideways. He also asks her again about the circumstances surrounding the crash and again if she’s injured.
“No, I’m fine,” Flanigan replies. “I feel like an idiot… I’m fine.”
When Deputy Adam Trifiletti arrives at the scene, he asks Flanigan what happened and she explains that her car had been wobbly earlier in the day. She also says that she was coming from her parents’ nearby home and denies that she drove off the road or hit anything.
Trifiletti then proceeds to conduct a series of field sobriety tests, starting with getting Flanigan to follow an object with her eyes before moving on to a one-leg stand test, during which the video shows Flanigan nearly falling twice.
During a walking test a few moments later, Flanigan, who told deputies she has a sprained ankle, slowly walks toward her car before turning and stumbling twice, prompting police to try to catch her.
Flanigan is then led behind Camera’s police cruiser and out of view of the video camera. Later she again denies drinking before deputies arrest her.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case,” a deputy can be heard saying.
Toward the end of the video as Camera and deputies are examining the scene, one of the deputies comments to him that it was a bad night to be working, an apparent reference to the situation with the mayor.
“Got a job to do,” Camera replies.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.