NORTH ROYALTON- The North Royalton police chief says his department is conducting an internal investigation after a Parma Municipal Court judge wrote a scathing opinion which states Officer Steve Zahursky’s report on an OVI arrest contained inaccuracies and falsehoods.
Judge Timothy Gilligan further wrote in his judgment entry, filed earlier this week following a suppression hearing on an OVI case, that “such dishonesty stains the badge of all courageous police officers dedicated to protect and serve.”
North Royalton Police Chief Kenneth Bilinovich says his department received a copy of that journal entry.
“We take this very seriously and we are conducting an internal investigation which we just started,” the chief said. “He is very hardworking.”
The officer will remain on duty while the investigation is taking place.
The suppression hearing was held in the OVI case of Austin Smith- Skinner, 22, of North Royalton. He was arrested on the charge in April.
“My client recorded the arrest on his cell phone and it’s a good thing he did because, without it, there would be no video or audio recording because North Royalton does not have dash or body camera video,” said Tony Manning, a defense attorney. “This video shows my client was not impaired. “
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.”
Zahursky has been recognized several times by the Cuyahoga County OVI task force for having the most OVI arrests in the county.
“There have been rumors out there he has lied, and this video shows that’s exactly what he did on the arrest of my client,” Manning said.
The judge further wrote in his judgment entry that Zahursky “deliberately filed a police report containing numerous exaggerations, misstatements, and falsehoods in order to turn what should have been a minor tinted window and license plate malfunction into the unlawful and wrongful arrest of Austin Smith-Skinner for OVI, Failure To Comply with order or signal of police officer, and resisting arrest.”
Skinner-Smith’s case is still pending. Manning is hoping it will be dismissed soon.
The defense attorney is also asking the Cuyahoga County prosecutors office to review the matter.