A man who had been pulled over and fined by police for using a phone when he was driving has been found not guilty after he successfully proved that he was actually eating a hash brown.
On April 11, 2018, 45-year-old Jason Stiber was stopped by police in Westport/Connecticut and fined $300 on a distracted driving citation, after the officer believed he has seen Striber using a black phone.
In court in February, Cpl. Shawn Wong Won testified that not only did he see a black phone in Striber's hand but it was also illuminated and his mouth was moving as if he was talking to someone.
However, Stiber, who had represented himself in court last year and lost, along with his attorney John Thygerson managed to prove that his mouth movements were 'consistent with chewing' as he was chowing down on a McDonald's hash brown wrapped in a piece of white paper which he had just purchased.
In addition, Stiber's phone records proved that he wasn't on the phone at the time he was stopped and that his car also has Bluetooth capabilities that allowed him to talk without holding a device.
To boost his defence, Stiber also requested a Freedom of Information Act which showed that Wong Won was 15 hours into a double shift and tiredness may have affected his decision making and perception at that moment.
On Friday, Judge Maureen Dennis declared Stiber not guilty on a lack of evidence and cited a similar case in the state from 2016, where a driver had been pulled over for allegedly using his phone when behind the wheel.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Thygerson said:
It was the case of the century. He [Stiber] was quite pleased. Obviously, he was quite pleased.
It just is proof that police officers — there’s nothing nefarious here — but that police officers are human and make mistakes. That’s all.
Stiber who spent more on the case than the initial fine, sat through two trials and missed four days of work, said that he regretted nothing, due to the consequences that he would have faced had he been found guilty but admitted that he has had to think twice about eating and driving since.
He told The Post:
Distracted driving violations go on your record, and they never come off. Plus, a lot of people don’t realise your insurance rates go up.
That’s why I did it, because I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through this. Other people don’t have the means to defend themselves in the same way.
I definitely haven’t eaten as many [hash browns] as I have previously, but I still go to McDonald’s for other things. It’s been a long ordeal, but I’d rather avoid trouble in the future.