Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Firefighter charged with DUI

Volunteer accused in off-duty crash

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — An off-duty Deerfield Township firefighter accused of leaving the scene of a car crash on Mason-Montgomery Road has now been charged with drunken driving.

        Mason Prosecutor Robert Peeler added the charge Monday against Christopher Ellis, 23, a part-time volunteer with Deerfield Township Fire Rescue.

        If convicted of DUI, a first-degree misdemeanor, he could face up to six months in jail.

        Mr. Ellis already faces charges of obstructing official business, falsification, reckless operation and failure to stop after an accident. He pleaded not guilty to those charges last Tuesday.

        His passenger, Christian Elliott, 24, also a part-time Deerfield firefighter, faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business. He faces up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines if convicted.

        Prosecutors could have difficulty persuading a judge or jury that Mr. Ellis was intoxi cated because police have no record of his blood-alcohol level. Police did not test Mr. Ellis for alcohol because of the three-hour gap between the accident and when he was arrested.

        “I'm not worried about that,” said Mr. Peeler, adding he's successfully prosecuted similar cases in the past. “There are other factors to be considered in this case such as eyewitness testimony, the de fendant's actions following the crash and the explanation for the poor driving.”

        Attorneys representing the two firefighters are expected meet with prosecutors today for a pre-trial hearing. Lebanon lawyer Charles Rittgers, who is representing Mr. Ellis, declined to comment about the case Monday.

        Mason police arrested Mr. Ellis and Mr. Elliott last week after a pickup truck Mr. Ellis was driving smashed into a utility pole in front of United Dairy Farmers on Mason-Montgomery Road.

        According to Mason police, Mr. Ellis was driving south on Mason-Montgomery Road when he attempted to turn left into the UDF parking lot. Going an estimated 50 to 60 mph, Mr. Ellis missed the parking lot driveway and hit a light pole. The legal speed limit is 45 mph.

        Three UDF clerks who witnessed the crash told police Mr. Ellis repeatedly tried to back up and leave the scene, but couldn't because the truck was disabled. At that point, Mr. Ellis jumped out of the car and ran off, while Mr. Elliott used a pay phone to call another firefighter for help, witnesses said.

        Police at the scene said the truck had a strong odor of alcohol and there was a keg pump and two beer mugs on the floorboard.


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