HUBBARD TWP. Coonce seeks plea bargain
The township police chief says he didn't fix traffic tickets.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HUBBARD -- A special prosecutor is working on a plea agreement with the attorney for Hubbard Township Police Chief Todd Coonce, who has admitted voiding traffic tickets.
Coonce admitted Friday that he voided 20-plus tickets, but denied fixing them.
Last August, agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation served a search warrant on the township police station, seizing records of the tickets.
Atty. Anthony Farris, an assistant Youngstown city prosecutor who has been assigned to the case, said Friday that he and the chief's lawyer, Jeffrey Adler, have been working on a plea agreement.
The charge would involve contempt of court, Farris said. "I think we're very close to a resolution."
If an agreement is not ironed out, Farris said, Coonce could be charged criminally, perhaps with obstruction of justice or tampering with records.
Special prosecutor: The case normally would be handled by Atty. Robert Johnson, prosecutor at Girard Municipal Court, which has jurisdiction in Hubbard Township.
Farris said Johnson asked him to be special prosecutor because Johnson regularly deals with Coonce.
Tickets missing: Coonce said the case involves 720-plus traffic tickets that supposedly were missing. The Girard court keeps track of the tickets.
The chief said that only about 20-plus tickets were actually missing; there was confusion about them because the procedure for issuing them changed.
Rather than using one ticket for each citation, police started putting multiple citations one ticket. As a result, he explained, it appeared some tickets were missing, but "were all found."
The other 20-plus tickets were those that Coonce voided after they were issued by his officers.
Judgment call: Coonce said he voided the tickets after asking his officers if they could have used "better judgment" by not issuing them.
"There were no favors done or money taken," Coonce stressed.
He explained the voided tickets were kept at the police station rather than being returned to the court. They then showed up as missing on court records.
"We should be able to work with people," Coonce said in justifying the voidings.
Asked about allegations the tickets were simply fixed, the chief responded, "I hope they don't look at it like that."
Farris said he wants a plea agreement to reflect that Coonce was involved in unacceptable conduct.