BRIMFIELD — No criminal charges will be filed against a Mogadore police officer who said he tried to stop a suspected impaired driver while off-duty in May, but a Tallmadge man is facing charges that he falsely accused the officer of misconduct.
In a letter to Brimfield police, the Portage County Prosecutor's Office "declined any criminal prosecution" over the events of the night of May 30, Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said. Kevin M. Keener, 24, told police that Mogadore police Officer Kevin Marculaitis pulled a gun on one of his friends on Tallmadge Road that night.
The prosecutor's office review was only for any criminal violations by Marculaitis according to the letter, which Vigluicci provided at the Record-Courier's request.
An internal Mogadore police investigation cleared Marculaitis, 24, of any departmental policy violations stemming from his actions, Police Chief Todd Higgins said last month. Marculaitis, whose personnel file was reviewed by the R-C and whose disciplinary record is spotless, remains with the department.
One of the three men Marculaitis came into contact with that night, Keener, now faces two misdemeanor charges for allegedly lying to Mogadore police about what the off-duty officer did that night.
Keener, Timothy K. Pizzute and Kevin Walker, who were confronted by Marculaitis, "admittedly provided false information in their statements," according to the prosecutor’s office.
"As they would not make credible witnesses, we are unwilling to utilize their statements as a basis for criminal charges," Assistant Prosecutor Eric Finnegan wrote to Brimfield police.
Keener pleaded not guilty July 24 in Portage County Municipal Court in Kent to making false allegations of peace officer misconduct, a first-degree misdemeanor, and obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor. He is free on bond, with a pretrial hearing scheduled Sept. 19 in front of Judge Kevin Poland.
The charges allege that on May 31, Keener requested a meeting with Higgins "to allege officer misconduct" by Marculaitis. Mogadore police allege "it was subsequently found that Mr. Keener lied several times."
Keener’s previous statement to the Record-Courier
Prior to being criminally charged, Keener gave an interview to a Record-Courier reporter, disputing Marculaitis' version of events as told to Brimfield police immediately after the confrontation.
Keener said he and several friends were on their way home from the Big Dog Saloon in Ravenna — Keener and Walker in the car behind Marculaitis, and Pizzute in a car that came to a stop at a red light next to Marculaitis' pickup truck, he said.
Pizzute "has a sense of humor, likes to make us laugh," Keener said, and accelerated through the red light after a brief stop. Marculaitis' truck then "took off really fast" after Pizzute's car, Keener said.
Keener said the scene he and Walker soon came upon "looked like a shootout going down," he recalled. Keener said Marculaitis' truck was angled in the roadway, blocking both lanes of Tallmadge Road, and Marculaitis was standing on the driver's side with his gun pointed at Pizzute.
All of this happened just in front of Walker’s house, so Keener said he approached Marculaitis and asked him to move the truck so he could pull into the driveway. Marculaitis told him "no," he said.
Keener said he pulled in anyway and Marculaitis followed in his vehicle. Keener said it was only then that Marculaitis identified himself as a police officer.
Keener said he told Marculaitis he was trespassing on private property, and asked if he was a police officer, what jurisdiction he worked in. Keener said Marculaitis told him, "Don't worry about it," and refused to show his badge. Marculaitis then left the scene and called Brimfield police from the nearby Walmart parking lot.
Marculaitis told Brimfield officers he pulled his firearm "but did not point it at anybody," twice identified himself as an off-duty police officer and "had words" with the men later identified as Keener and Walker, Brimfield Police Chief Roy Mosley III said in June.
Keener talked to Higgins the following day, but declined to file a complaint, and also spoke to Brimfield police, he said.
(Neither Pizzute nor Walker called a Record-Courier reporter to give their versions of the night's events after requests for comment were made through Keener.)
Keener said he didn't plan to take any legal action, but hoped for an apology and that telling his story might "save a life" in the future.
"I just don't want it to happen to somebody else," he said.
Reporter Dave O'Brien can be reached at 330-298-1128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @daveobrien_RC.