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Last updated: Thu. Nov. 01, 2012 - 09:04 am EDT

New Moss-Fries records raise old questions

Statements from officers don't indicate councilman tried to avoid arrest

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Newly unsealed documents provide more questions than answers concerning the traffic stop that resulted in conflict-of-interest charges against Allen County Councilman Paul Moss and Sheriff Ken Fries.

The Allen County Ethics Commission, which is investigating the complaint filed by former county employee Phillip Pease, requested more information from Moss in August and from the three police officers involved in the stop in September. But the statements were not released by the Allen County Commissioners' office until Wednesday afternoon. But the four written statements largely back up – or at least do not contradict -- the key points in the version of events Moss and Fries have given ever since Moss was stopped on Dupont Road early on June 2.

As Moss first told The News-Sentinel then restated in his submission to the Commission, he was asleep when his daughter called seeking a safe ride home from a party for her and her friends. He was not drunk and had not been drinking, but the officer who stopped his car (Moss told the newspaper he may have swerved while texting) smelled alcohol coming from Moss' passengers.

Fearing it would be unreliable, Moss declined to take a field sobriety test and instead requested a blood-alcohol test. But after a 45-minute wait, according to Moss' statement, he grew impatient and called Fries to expedite the test. “Paul never requested any other assistance from Sheriff Fries,” it adds.

The statements from County Officers Steve Stuckey and Edward Hegbli and Fort Wayne Officer Andrew Irick neither prove nor disprove whether Moss had been drinking or asked Fries to do more than speed up the process.

Stuckey and Hegbli agree Moss did not ask permission to call Fries and that such a call was unusual but neither heard the conversation. Hegbli said in his statement that in a subsequent conversation with Fries, the sheriff told him to “do what I needed to do with the investigation.”

Both county officers stated they had no reason to believe that Moss asked Fries to use his authority to terminate the investigation and Hegbli added that Fries never tried to persuade him that Moss should not be transported downtown for the blood test.

Neither officer said they knew who Moss was until Fries gave the information to Hegbli.

So why was Moss allowed to be given a ride home even though neither was convinced he had not been drinking? That remains unclear.

“Officer discretion being overly cautious,” wrote Hegbli.

“To err on the side of caution Moss decided to get a ride home,” wrote Stuckey, adding that the blood-alcohol test “was never offered to Moss as an option.” He did not explain why not.

As for Irick, who was doing drunken-driving patrols that night but delayed by other calls from getting to the scene, he wrote that Stuckey told him that “per Sheriff Fries, we could disregard any further. But Irick never spoke to Fries so could not explain the sheriff's involvement. Irick also did not hear Moss' conversation with Fries and said he had no direct knowledge of what Fries told his officers.

Irick, who never did arrive at the scene of the stop, added that “It would be improper for me to speculate (about) any of the reasons why Councilman Moss was permitted to go home. I cannot say (he) was or was not intoxicated.”

The Commission ultimately dismissed conflict-of-interest charges against Fries because he is already under the Indiana Sheriffs Association's ethics policy. The board has scheduled a Nov. 30 public hearing to further investigate Pease's charges against Moss, at which time some of the unanswered questions posed by the statements may be resolved.

The fact that the hearing was scheduled and Moss notified allowed the statements to be released in accordance with the county's ethics policy, county spokesman Mike Green said.

kleininger@news-sentinel.com


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