LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A “representative” of Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad’s office wrongly told a police officer there would be no investigation into a July 31 allegation by a judge that the officer lied while testifying, according to the department.
Subsequently, in a DUI trial on Aug. 27, the officer, Jeff Eberenz, testified that he had been “cleared” by the department of allegedly giving false testimony.
On Wednesday, however, Conrad sent Eberenz a letter telling him the department was investigating the allegations by Jefferson District Court Judge Stephanie Burke.
“Obviously, you have been misinformed,” Conrad wrote, adding that the incorrect information had been provided to Eberenz by a “representative” of his office. The letter did not identify the representative.
The department’s professional standards unit will now investigate Eberenz’ testimony in the Aug. 27 trial as well as the initial allegation by Judge Burke, Conrad wrote.
The letter was released to WDRB and The Courier-Journal by Sgt. Phil Russell, a spokesman for the department, to “clarify” that Eberenz was unaware he was under investigation during his testimony.
The department declined to comment further because the investigations are pending.
However, the Jefferson County Attorney’s office filed a court motion Thursday saying attorney Charles Friedman, a legal adviser for LMPD, told the prosecution there was no “pending investigation” of Eberenz and likely wouldn’t be one.
Defense attorney Paul Gold filed a motion earlier this week claiming Eberenz and a prosecutor gave false information to Jefferson District Court Judge Erica Lee Williams during the Aug. 27 DUI trial of Matt Stegeman.
This morning Gold asked Williams to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine why Assistant County Attorney Ben Wyman and Eberenz both told the judge the officer had been cleared.
“I want to see if this is a police department cover-up or what the truth is,” Gold said in an interview. “I want to know who told Eberenz there would be no investigation and have that person come to court and explain his or her actions. I want to know who told Wyman. He (the prosecutor) had an obligation to check it out.”
During the trial, Friedman told Wyman he reviewed Eberenz’ testimony in the case in front of Burke and believed it to be truthful and there would be no investigation, according to the response filed Thursday by the county attorney’s office.
“It was subsequently learned that Mr. Friedman had never spoken to LMPD Chief of Police Steve Conrad (who initiated the investigation into this matter) and in fact the comments he made to Mr. Wyman were wrong and in error,” the office determined after its own investigation.
The “erroneous testimony was entirely inadvertent,” Assistant County Attorney Paul Richwalsky said in the motion.
On Thursday, Judge Williams set a hearing on the matter for October 6.
Eberenz was first accused of lying in a July 31 ruling by Judge Burke, who wrote that Eberenz offered “false” testimony in a January hearing to determine whether the officer had probable cause to stop Justin Wagner for speeding – which led to the DUI charge. Eberenz testified that he had properly certified his radar gun and maintained it each shift.
However, in May, maintenance records for the radar gun showed that it had not been properly certified since April 2011, nearly three years before Eberenz stopped Wagner.
“It is almost without question that Officer Eberenz knew his statements were false,” Burke wrote. “It would be difficult to imagine that Officer Eberenz would be unfamiliar with the maintenance history of the machine which he relies upon on a regular, if not daily basis, particularly when he was so emphatic in his testimony to the contrary.”
A police spokesperson told WDRB on Aug. 31 that the department’s professional standards unit began an investigation on Aug. 26.
The next day, on Aug. 27, Eberenz was on the stand in a speeding and drunken driving case against Stegeman, when he was asked by Gold and Wyman about the allegations made against him by Judge Burke.
Eberenz testified that “LMPD has cleared me entirely in that incident,” according to a video of the hearing.
In his closing arguments, Wyman told Williams that while there had been a question about Eberenz credibility, “I am not going to linger on this, Officer Eberenz has been cleared.”
Judge Williams took the case under submission and said she would rule on Sept. 22.
Earlier this month, the county attorney’s office appealed Burke’s decision to throw out the evidence in the Wagner case to Jefferson Circuit Court, saying the judge was “incorrect” and that to accuse Eberenz of lying on the stand was “to misperceive” what actually happened.
“Because of a less than careful approach to the record in this case, an excellent police officer has been incorrectly and falsely accused by a sitting judge of perjury,” Wyman wrote in the appeal, asking a higher judge to reverse Burke’s order.
Defense attorney Gregory Simms, who represents Wagner, has said that Eberenz’s testimony could “affect all of his existing cases. When an officer gives false testimony under oath, that negatively affects the officer for good.”
Eberenz has dozens of pending DUI and speeding cases.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad told WDRB in late 2013 that as part of a new policy at the time, he had put the department’s officers on notice that any violations involving untruthfulness “will likely lead to termination from this department.”
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