LIMA — A Lima police officer charged with aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the death of a motorcyclist more than a year ago has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Cody Rollins, 23, will be sentenced Nov. 28 after pleading guilty Wednesday to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide for his role in the death of Brandon Matos, 23, of Lima. Matos died of injuries suffered in an Aug. 7, 2017 traffic accident in American Township.
The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charge is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine — neither of which is mandatory under Ohio law.
Police say Rollins was operating his 2017 Hyundai Sonata westbound on West Elm Street when he attempted a left turn onto Homestead Drive. A motorcycle operated by Matos, which was headed eastbound on West Elm Street, struck Rollins’ vehicle. Matos was thrown from the vehicle into the Ottawa River, where he was rescued by passersby. He was taken to St. Rita’s Medical Center with life-threatening injuries and died three days later at Cleveland University Hospital.
Rollins was in Allen County Common Pleas Court twice Wednesday. His first appearance before Judge David Cheney was for a hearing to determine the admissibility at trial of evidence generated by an independent crash re-constructionist that alleged the motorcycle Matos was operating was traveling at speeds of between 100-110 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The report concludes there was no degree of recklessness on Rollins’ part that contributed to Matos’ death.
Prosecuting Attorney Juergen Waldick objected to the contents of the report and further argued that defense attorney Bradley Koffel had withheld the crash report that had been in the defense team’s possession for more than nine months.
Koffel said facts contained in the report — including the speed of Matos’ motorcycle at the time of impact and the motorcyclist’s distance from Rollins’ vehicle — are crucial evidence components that jurors need to determine the facts of the case.
Cheney agreed with the defense attorney, ruling the independent crash test admissible as evidence while allowing the state additional time to secure its own expert crash reconstruction witness.
Also placed on the official record at that time was the state’s offer of a plea deal. Under the terms of the proposal Rollins would plead guilty to an amended misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide. Koffel said the offer had been rejected by his client.
But less than an hour later, after the first hearing had concluded, the parties were back in Cheney’s courtroom. At that time Rollins agreed to the plea deal previously offered.
Rollins was placed on paid administrative leave after the grand jury returned charges against him and was terminated from the police force on March 20 of this year, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said Wednesday. Rollins was still serving his probation period with the police force when the traffic accident occurred, the chief said.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.