NewsBriefs BUTTONS

Ohio Judge Throws Out Drug Evidence, Says Trooper May Have Used "Profiling"


August 1997

In July, Lucas County (OH) Judge William Skow threw out evidence in a drug case (Ohio v. Hernandez, et al., C.P. #CR97-1072), saying that State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Kiefer may have used a "profile" -- descriptions of perceived persons who might be criminals, sometimes based on appearance or race -- to stop a vehicle carrying two Hispanic men (Mitch Weiss, Associated Press, "Judge rejects drug case evidence, says trooper may have used profiling," Akron Beacon Journal, July 8, 1997).

"One is left to wonder if this car -- outwardly unremarkable and with no suspicious behavior -- was targeted by specific tip, or by means of a profile. Trooper Kiefer insists not, but Trooper Kiefer's credibility is suspect," said Judge Skow. Skow made his decision after hearing testimony and reviewing a videotape of the stop taken from the trooper's patrol car.

On December 11, 1996, Kiefer arrested Luis Montoya, 33, and Ramon Hernandez, 20, during a traffic stop on the Ohio Turnpike, during which the trooper called in a drug dog. Investigators said they found more than $500,000 worth of cocaine and marijuana in the trunk during the stop. The defendants' lawyer, Jerome Phillips, asked the judge to suppress the evidence, contending that Kiefer did not have probable cause to make the stop. Judge Skow granted Phillips' motion, saying the drug team "engaged in manipulative practices." Skow said Kiefer's initial questioning of the two men was intended only to "hopefully buttress a preordained weak walk-around" by the drug dog.

Montoya and Hernandez were released without bond from the Lucas County jail. Prosecutor Julia Bates said she will fight Skow's ruling. Phillips confirmed to NewsBriefs that an appeal has been filed (C.A. #L-97-1226).

Trooper Kiefer is a defendant in a federal lawsuit that accuses the Ohio State Highway Patrol of illegally using profiles to harass Hispanics. Filed last year in U.S. District Court in Toledo by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a union representing migrant workers, the suit claims that the patrol routinely stops Hispanic motorists without justification.

Defense Attorney Jerome Phillips - (419) 255-6070.

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates - (419) 245-4700.