North Royalton police chief defends officer accused of falsifying OVI report

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio-- The North Royalton police chief says he believes a Parma Municipal Court judge's ruling, which states an officer's report contained "falsehoods and misstatements," is a personal attack.

Parma Municipal Court Judge Timothy Gilligan wrote a scathing opinion in October which states Officer Steve Zahursky’s report on an OVI arrest contained numerous exaggerations. The judge further noted that “such dishonesty stains the badge of all courageous police officers dedicated to protect and serve.”

North Royalton Police Chief Kenneth Bilinovich suspended Zahursky for one day after an internal investigation found the officer "was not as familiar with the case he was testifying to as he should have been, in part because of an unvetted cell phone video that the officer did not get to watch before he testified."

The chief also stated in a letter attached to an agreement between the city and the officer, that he found no proof that the officer lied or purposely filed a police report with inaccuracies or falsehoods.

"What was very disturbing to me is that Judge Gilligan, who by definition is to uphold the impartiality of the judiciary, berated Officer Zahursky on subjective language he used to document his field sobriety tests," the letter states. "Patrolman Zahursky is highly trained in the detection of drivers under the influence of alcohol, as well as a certified Drug Recognition Expert."

We reached out to Judge Gilligan for a response and he stated the "facts speak for themselves and the court speaks through its journal entry."

The attorney for Austin Smith- Skinner, 22, of North Royalton, says his client recorded the arrest on his cell phone.

“This video shows my client was not impaired," said Atty. Tony Manning.

The officer stated in his report that Smith-Skinner slurred his response on 27 separate occasions. The judge, however, states that after reviewing the videotape “the defendant at no time slurred his words.”

The OVI case against Smith-Skinner was dismissed.

Zahursky has been recognized several times by the Cuyahoga County OVI task force for having the most OVI arrests in the county.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office has asked a special prosecutor to review the matter.

Read more, here.