Driver with suspended license must pay restitution for damaged cop car

Cary Ashby • May 8, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Norwalk resident Jessica Rothgeb must pay about $1,786 in restitution for the damage she caused when she backed into detectives' unmarked car.

Rothgeb, 27, of 5144 U.S. 250, Lot 135, said she was going less than 2 mph when she backed out her driveway. She said there's "no way" she caused that much damage "from a tap."

Huron County Sheriff's Detective Eric Bardar investigated the private property accident, which happened about 4:30 p.m. April 9.

Bardar testified for Norwalk Assistant Law Director Scott Christophel during a bench trial Tuesday morning in Norwalk Municipal Court. Rothgeb testified, but didn't ask the detective any questions and didn't have any witnesses testify on her behalf.

Judge Eric Weisenburger, after hearing Bardar's testimony, found Rothgeb guilty of driving with a suspended license. The judge fined her $200 and had two points assessed to her license, which is suspended until Nov. 16.

Rothgeb must pay the restitution within 120 days of Tuesday. Wesienburger ruled the defendant isn't to have any convictions for the next two years and suspended a 90-day jail sentence.

Bardar, when responding to the scene, interviewed Rothgeb and the occupants in the other vehicle, Norwalk Police Detective Sgts. Jim Fulton and Seth Fry and a woman. There were no injuries.

"She (Rothgeb) said she was backing out the vehicle to get her children," Bardar said from the stand.

Rothgeb's 1-year-old son also was an occupant. She earlier told the Reflector she was on her way to the bus stop in the Rustic Hills Mobile Home Park to pick up her other children, ages 5 and 7, both of whom have disabilities.

"I looked and nobody was behind me," Rothgeb said. "As I started to back up, I just tapped them. I hadn't made it out of my driveway."

Chief Dave Light earlier told the Reflector the detectives were parked near Rothgeb's driveway because they had just finished a drug investigation at the Midtown Manor mobile home park at 520 Milan Ave., which is inside city limits. They had followed the suspected drug dealer's vehicle into Rustic Hills, which is located just outside the city limits and were in the process of getting the suspect's license plate number when the accident occurred.

Bardar testified Rothgeb confirmed she had a suspended driver's license after one of the detectives ran her information through the LEADS database. Her driving record indicates one suspension lasts from March 21 of this year through March 21, 2014.

"She's under several suspensions," Bardar said.

"I do understand I was under suspension," Rothgeb said from the stand.

The defendant said she studied state law and believed since her back tire reportedly never left her driveway, the incident happened on her property. However, Rothgeb said she wasn't denying she drove with a suspended license and drove her vehicle in and out of her driveway.

Rothgeb declined further comment after Tuesday's hearing.

Bardar returned two days after the accident and interviewed Rothgeb about the alleged conduct of Fulton and Fry. The case, involving menacing and unlawful restraint allegations, was sent to the Huron County Prosecutor's Office for consideration of charges.

Recommended for You