Salem cop enters not guilty plea to OVI charge

CANFIELD – The Salem police officer charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and marked lanes entered a plea of not guilty during arraignment Wednesday night in Mahoning County Court #5 in Canfield.

Gary Poage, 47, of Salem, appeared with attorney Walter Ritchie before Judge Scott Hunter, who released him on his own recognizance and said a pretrial date will be set.

A patrolman with the Salem Police Department since June 1993, Poage was suspended without pay on Tuesday pending the outcome of the court case. Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he was evaluating Poage’s personnel file “to decide if any other action will be taken prior to this being resolved in court.”

Poage’s vehicle was stopped at 2:32 a.m. Sunday on South Broad Street by Canfield Police after allegedly traveling left of center and weaving. He was found to be more than three times over the legal limit for alcohol after blowing a .260 during a portable breath test. The legal limit in Ohio is .08.

At the police station, he agreed to a chemical test which resulted in a reading of .244, also over the legal limit.

Poage initially denied drinking any alcohol, then admitted he had two Margaritas while on a date, later adding that his date actually ordered a pitcher of Margaritas. The arresting officer noticed a red plastic cup at Poage’s feet while he was still inside his vehicle. When asked what was in the cup, he said he did not know and did not know how it got there.

According to the officer’s report, the cup appeared to have beer in it. The cup and another cup containing a similar substance on the passenger side floor board were seized along with two empty beer bottles found in the vehicle. One bottle was found in the glove box and the other was found on the driver side floor board.

Poage’s license was seized and suspended the night of his arrest.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at