Y'town cop pleads to reckless operation in OVI case


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A felony weapons charge against a city police officer, who was cited for driving drunk while off duty last month, was dropped Friday.

Additionally, a charge of operating a motor vehicle while the influence charge against Darrel “Fred” Herdman was amended to reckless operation. He pleaded guilty in municipal court to that charge, was fined $150 and ordered to attend three days of drivers school.

His license will be suspended for three months retroactive to the day he was charged but he can apply for work privileges.

Herdman was arrested after he was pulled over early March 17 by a state trooper after he was observed running a red light at Schenley Avenue and DeCamp Road on the West Side. The trooper said he smelled alcohol and placed Herdman under arrest for OVI. He faced a felony charge of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle because of the OVI charge.

Herdman refused to take a breath test so prosecutors had no idea of what his blood alcohol content might have been. He had a 9mm pistol in the map pocket of the driver’s side door of his vehicle when he was pulled over. Under state law, it is illegal to have a firearm if someone is drunk.

City law Director Jeff Limbian told Judge Carla Baldwin the OVI case would have been tough to prove in court, which is why he decided to enter plea negotiations.

There is no word yet on if Herdman will face departmental discipline. He has been working since he received work privileges to drive.

If the case had gone forward and Herdman been convicted of the weapons charge, he would have been unable to continue working in law enforcement.

Limbian told Judge Baldwin that he thought there was a slim chance of convicting Herdman on the OVI, saying that he estimated chances of a conviction of that to be between “zero and 10 percent.”

“Upon further review it became apparent that conviction on the OVI offense was impossible,” Limbian said.

Limbian said the trooper who made the traffic stop was also in agreement with the disposition of the case.

Herdman’s attorney, J. Gerald Ingram, said that without the breath test, there was not enough evidence to show that Herdman was under the influence.

After court, Limbian said he watched a video of Herdman’s traffic stop and that on the video it did not appear that Herdman was under the influence enough that he should not be driving.

Judge Baldwin said the offer Herdman agreed to was the right one.

“The prosecutor [Limbian] did the right thing, not the easy thing,” Judge Baldwin said. “He followed the law. And that is not easy based on the public perception. This was a fair, just and equitable solution.”

Herdman declined to speak before he was sentenced.

Lt. Brian Butler, head of the Internal Affairs Division, said now that the court case against Herdman has been concluded he will review it and determine what action, if any, he will recommend should be taken against Herdman by the department. Herdman was sworn in as a police officer in November 2016.

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