NORTH ROYALTON - The Fox 8 I-Team has learned a Cuyahoga County grand jury has indicted a local police officer, who once played for the Cleveland Browns, on several charges including two felonies.
A special grand jury indicted North Royalton Officer Steve Zahursky on charges of perjury, tampering with evidence, and falsification.
Special Prosecutor John Ricotta told Fox 8 that Zahursky will be arraigned on the charges soon.
State agents with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation started looking into allegations against Zahursky in the fall after a request was submitted by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley.
That request was made shortly after the Fox 8 I-Team broke the story that Parma Municipal Court Judge Timothy Gilligan wrote a scathing opinion in October which states 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.”
The North Royalton police chief, however, said previously he believes the judge's ruling, which states the officer's report contained "falsehoods and misstatements," is a personal attack.
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.
“My job was determining the facts in the courtroom and issuing a journal entry,” Judge Gilligan said. “I did that and that’s where it ends for me.”
The attorney for Austin Smith- Skinner, 22, of North Royalton, says his client recorded the arrest on his cell phone.
Atty. Tony Manning said the video showed his client was not intoxicated when arrested.
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.
“I’m happy he was indicted,” Manning said. “I hope now that he resigns or is fired.”
The North Royalton Law Director said they have not yet received any formal notice of any indictment so they cannot respond.