A Cleveland police captain who was let go as a "courtesy" on Christmas has pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of having physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence.
John Sotomayor was sentenced Monday in Stow Municipal Court to a three-day driver intervention program and fined $500 after changing his initial not guilty plea.
Twinsburg police found Sotomayor intoxicated in his pickup truck on the side of Interstate 480 eastbound around 11:20 p.m. Dec. 25.
According to a report provided by Twinsburg police, Sotomayor was reportedly "swerving all over" the highway and had pulled over about a half mile before the Route 82 exit.
In a bodycam video of the incident, the Twinsburg officers say Sotomayor smelled like alcohol, had urinated on himself and was obviously intoxicated. The officers contacted Cleveland police to inform them that they were confiscating the captain’s weapon, and that they were offering a "courtesy" by allowing the man’s wife to take him home without charges.
In a statement made about two weeks after the incident, Twinsburg Police Chief Chris Noga said Jan. 8 that the department had charged the officer with a first-degree misdemeanor physical control offense and taken steps "to prevent something like this from happening again."
Noga said the decision to charge Sotomayor was made "after an administrative review and consultation with the Law Department."
"While the officers ensured that an impaired individual would not drive away, the fact that Mr. Sotomayor is a Cleveland Police officer should not have weighed any differently in this situation. In fact, this should hold greater weight as the choice to not arrest Mr. Sotomayor that night has affected public trust not only for us, but for law enforcement as a profession," Noga continued.
He also said that the department has taken steps to prevent a similar occurrence and that both officers have been counseled regarding their decisions that night.
Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates later explained the situation at Council’s Jan. 14 meeting.
"The officers involved are really good officers, and I’d hire them again any day," he said. "They are remorseful for what happened, and they and the department have learned a lesson from this incident.
"I hope any lost confidence in the department can be restored. This matter has been dealt with internally, and I am hopeful the community can move forward from it."