An Ohio State Highway Patrol employee will not be represented by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in a lawsuit he is facing for his role in the death of an intoxicated man who was dropped off at a local Taco Bell and later stumbled on a road and was hit by an oncoming car.
The Ohio State Troopers Association (OSTA) is rallying support for Trooper Sean Carpenter, and asking Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to reconsider his decision.
“The AG’s office has declined to represent (Carpenter), citing ‘his actions were in a wanton and reckless manner.’ Although this position by the attorney general parallels its position in advising the Delaware (County) prosecutor; and in representing Delaware (County) before the court of appeals and then seeking review by the supreme court, it is no more sustainable now than it has been shown to be by the appellate courts and in arbitration,” the OSTA writes on its Facebook page.
The lawsuit alleges that Carpenter and two former Delaware County Sheriff’s Office deputies engaged in a “perverse joke” on the night of July 28, 2012 after they discovered Uriel Juarez-Popoca stopped along Interstate 71 in an obviously intoxicated state and dropped him off at a nearby Taco Bell instead of taking him into custody.
Juarez-Popoca, who was 22 at the time, later walked out of the restaurant and onto U.S. 36, where he was fatally struck by a motorist.
The three law enforcement officials directly involved – Carpenter and former deputies Chris Hughes and Derek Beggs — were each charged with two misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty.
The case went to trial in December 2012 at the Delaware City Municipal Court.
Hughes accepted a no contest plea hours before jury selection began and was convicted of a lesser charge of failure to aid a law enforcement officer, a minor misdemeanor. He was fined $20 plus court costs, a total of $183.
After four days of court proceedings, a jury found Beggs and Carpenter guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty. They were fined $1,000 plus court fees, a total of $1,809.80 for each officer.
All three officers were later fired.
However, the conviction against Carpenter was later overturned because he “did not contribute to the decision-making process” that led to the death of Juarez-Popoca, the 5th District Court of Appeals ruled. He has since won an arbitration case that will allow him to return to work.
Juarez-Popoca was an illegal immigrant. His family, including two daughters, remains in Mexico.
Under the OSTA contract, Carpenter was provided with legal representation in the criminal trial and appeal, but not in the civil case.
The OSTA is asking law enforcement officials across the country to send letter to the attorney general’s office asking DeWine to reverse course and represent Carpenter.