CLEVELAND - The Fox 8 I-Team has uncovered a huge break for a suspected drunk driver, and it’s so unusual the state’s highest court is now deciding if a Cleveland judge went too far.
The Ohio Supreme Court just heard arguments surrounding the case of Troussaint Jones. He went through Cleveland Municipal Court in 2013 on a series of charges accusing him of driving drunk and under suspension.
He plead no contest. But Judge Emanuella Groves then found him guilty of a lesser charge of physical control. She did that on her own with no trial and no request from the prosecutor. Jones ended up with probation when he could have gone to jail.
City prosecutors have appealed all the way up to the state Supreme Court. Last week, a panel of judges heard arguments.
Bridget Hopp argued for the city, "The state was never given the opportunity to introduce any evidence to prove Mr. Jones was guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence."
Cullen Sweeney argued for Jones, "The state has no right to get into this kind of inquiry we're engaged in here which is second guessing the final verdict of a trial court."
Meantime, Justice Terrence O’Donnell asked, "Is that what we want going on in our trial courts? This gonna become precedent now?"
In the court file Judge Groves wrote, “Based upon facts court finds guilt of physical control.” But no trial was ever held.
The I-Team tracked down the driver, Troussaint Jones, by phone. He was stunned to hear how his case had made it to the state’s highest court.
We found Jones had an OVI conviction before this case, and he had another one after it. As of Friday, the state says his license is suspended.
The Supreme Court could take months to issue a ruling. Not clear yet if Jones may have to go back to city court to face the old charges, or if a ruling may only affect how future cases are handled.