Driver with suspended license must pay restitution for damaged cop car

Woman said she was going less than 2 mph when she backed out her driveway.
Cary Ashby
May 8, 2014

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.

Comments

truckin

Let's see......
Young lady...
hasn't had an active license for past year
job for past year? no mention of needing to drive to work.
married? unknown
3 children... trl park..no insurance, obvious..
Seriously.. just where does the judge think she will get her hands on $1,700+200...?
Not that she isn't FULLY responsible and justice means all.. no matter economic status..
but i am not seeing it.

I Can Read

She has good excuses though, not as good as parking in a handicap spot because it was raining. But I'm pretty sure if your going less than 2mph and you hit something you are off the hook. You have to be going at least 3mph in order to be responsible for the damages.

Dusty

And if she don't pay the 1900.00 she get's the 90 days in jail?

shovelhead

What a joke. The cop car is 14 years old. Where did they take it to for the estimate? Those guys should be proud of themselves for sticking that chick w/$1,700 for a car that you can BUY for $900. Just who I want protecting me & mine. Way to look out for the citizens.

Dusty

Interesting Id like to know what the book value of that car. 14 years old most likely over 200k miles. If the repairs are over 2/3 the value of the car the insurance company totals it.

NWalk99

Agree and I am still skeptical of their ability to charge her with driving under suspension....to her point she was still on private property. If she had the financial resources for a good attorney, I am sure the charge could have been reduced or thrown out. I have seen similar events be reduced or thrown out, not sure if she had a good attorney, but, if she did not, I feel for her because then this is actually a great example of economic and financial inequality and how it can impact you. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying it was right that she drove with a suspended license, but, if she was on private property and hit a different car (not a police car), would it have been handled and prosecuted the same?

J Cooper

Its unlawful to operate a motor vehicle on ANY roadway or parking lot open to the public, either a public roadway or private owned lot or roadway, like a trailer park drive. What would have happen if she had caused an accident on the roadway that caused injury or death without a license or insurance? Why should the taxpayers pay for the damage? Bottom line she had no business driving and she should face the results of her actions.

Fairlybadboy

Seems unduly harsh. Undercover could have smacked her in the eye with a pop bottle. Instant justice.

kittyboo

Hahahahahahahahaha. Fry & a pop bottle. Wish they would of charged him with something. When I see miss Eastman in county I always wonder why she was with that scumbagg. Glad she lefttt himm.

Kottage Kat

She managed to walk down and get her kids after the accident. Just saying

J Cooper

If you don't a valid license or the financial recourses to pay for any damages resulting from an auto accident why are you driving?