Former Southington Post commander demoted after investigation


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Holt discipline

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Demotion of Lt. Brian T. Holt

By ED RUNYAN

runyan@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

Brian Holt, former commander of the Southington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, has been demoted from lieutenant to sergeant and reassigned to the Canfield Post after an internal-affairs investigation found wrongdoing in a Jan. 18 crash in Howland involving his wife.

A demotion to sergeant involves a reduction in pay of about $6 per hour. His demotion was effective June 6. Holt’s position as commander at the Southington Post will be filled later.

The investigation found Holt failed to take corrective action on an erroneous court date Trooper Douglas Bolen of his post set for Holt’s wife, Letra Holt, regarding a citation she received in the accident on state Route 46. Bolen issued Letra Holt a citation for failure to maintain assured-clear distance, a minor-misdemeanor,

The court date was incorrect because it was March 1 — more than 30 days from the citation date, which created a speedy-trial issue at Warren Municipal Court. Speedy trial is the amount of time by law the court has to adjudicate an offense.

Because the hearing date potentially violated speedy-trial requirements, Letra Holt asked the court in a written filing if the charge could be dismissed, but Judge Terry Ivanchak refused to dismiss the case, and Letra Holt later pleaded guilty.

But Holt, a 27-year patrol veteran, admitted he spoke with Gil Blair, a prosecutor for the court, and discussed with him filing the motion to dismiss.

The internal-affairs investigation showed Holt “exploited” the error by his trooper “in an attempt to have her case dismissed,” according to a copy of the June 6 letter to Holt outlining the disciplinary action taken against him.

The Vindicator attempted to contact Holt Tuesday, but a dispatcher at the Canfield Post said Holt had already left for the day. Holt has 10 days from June 6 to appeal his discipline.

The rules he violated were conduct unbecoming an officer and responsibility of command. The letter said Holt “contacted the prosecutor in an on-duty status and used your position in an attempt to garner information regarding the filing of a motion to dismiss the case.”

A verbal reprimand was also issued to Bolen for the erroneous court date. Bolen, who said it was an “honest mistake,” was not reassigned or given any other sanctions.

Following an April 3 Vindicator public records request that the highway patrol said prompted its investigation, the newspaper on Tuesday obtained Holt’s reprimand letter and a 14-page document containing the details of the internal-affairs investigation.

Internal affairs first interviewed Traci Timko Sabau, an assistant Warren prosecutor, who said she learned in early March that Bolen set the court date outside of the 30-day requirement and found it “very unusual” for him to do that.

She checked Bolen’s citations dating back to January and found no other citations with this flaw. “She described Bolen as a ‘perfectionist’ and said he is meticulous about his work,” the investigative report said.

Timko Sabau said she asked Judge Ivanchak why he denied Letra Holt’s request for dismissal, and he said he thought Letra Holt was “schooled” by someone. She approached Letra Holt in the court hallway, and informed her of the judge’s decision. Leyta Holt got on the phone with her husband, who then told Timko Sabau he had nothing to do with the error but the motion had been filed on the advice of Gil Blair, another assistant prosecutor.

Timko Sabau said an erroneous court date could have been corrected if one of the Holts would have called the court and advised the court date was wrong.

When Blair was interviewed, he said spoke with Brian Holt about the speedy-trial issue, but he did not think Brian Holt was trying to “maniplate the situation.” They also did not discuss dismissing the case and refiling it.

Blair said he discussed the motion to dismiss with Brian Holt and said it was “something he would have to take up with the judge.”

In an internal-affairs interview with Bolen, he said the erroneous court date was “an error on his part alone” and that Brian Holt came to the crash scene but never influenced the way Bolen handled the crash. “Bolen said he never intended to ‘help’ out the Holts” and said it was “an honest mistake.”

He said the error may have been the result of it being easy to select various court dates on the computer-based system used for citations. Investigators signed into the “e-citation system and noticed that the month can be advanced with the wheel of the mouse.”

Brian Holt told internal affairs he spoke with Bolen about the erroneous court date after court case was concluded but said he didn’t speak with Bolen before that because “he did not want there to be any hint of impropriety.” He said he “did the math on the court date” after the 30 day time period had passed and realized the court date was an error but did not say anything to Bolen because he did not want to “‘meddle’ due to it involving his wife.”

Brian Holt said when he discussed the error with Blair, the assistant prosecutor “told him it was worth a shot to file a motion to dismiss for speedy trial,” and Blair gave him “almost verbatim” information on how to file the motion.

The report notes that this remark is contrary to what Blair told investigators because Blair “indicated all he told Holt was the statute covering speedy trial.”

Holt told internal affairs that when he talked with his wife about her citation he was “talking ... as a husband and not a post commander during all of this. Holt ... stated he regretted making the telephone call to Blair in the first place.”

Holt admitted the situation “looks horrible for both him and the highway patrol. He said he has never used his position for any personal gain.”

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