Trial for EP man arrested at street fair delayed again
LISBON – The jury trial for a man arrested by East Palestine police during the village’s annual street fair in May has been postponed yet again, and the police department is requesting state assistance with the investigation.
Columbiana County Municipal Court Judge Mark Frost learned Thursday morning during the pretrial for Eric Goempel that the police department contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s Office because of Goempel’s accusation police erased a video from his son’s cell phone during the arrest.
Goempel, 43, an East Palestine resident, is claiming he was mistreated by Police Chief Kevin Dickey and other officers while at the street fair with his son.
According to his account, on May 24, while walking through the fair with his service dog – who was wearing the vest identifying it as such – Dickey approached him and said no dogs were allowed there.
Goempel became upset when Dickey reportedly wanted to ask him some questions privately in a nearby street, and then became even more upset when he and two other officers began removing the dog from him.
Dickey also reportedly requested more than once that Goempel provide paperwork showing the dog is an actual service dog.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the only questions legally allowed to be asked are, is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
Service dog owners are not required to provide medical documentation or other paper work, according to www.ada.gov.
An Air Force veteran, Goempel has the service dog for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Goempel and his 13-year-old son were taken to the police station on May 24 and he was charged with disorderly conduct after being upset with police for removing the dog, which he says is a violation of his rights as a disabled person.
During the situation Goempel said he told his son to videotape the arrest on his phone, and his son reportedly complied. According to him, an officer took the phone away from his son at the station and later returned it, with the video missing.
Village Manager Pete Monteleone, who witnessed the arrest and reportedly told Goempel several times to calm down and comply with the officers, told Assistant Prosecutor Megan Forsythe during the Thursday proceedings the department did contact the attorney general’s office because of that accusation.
Judge Frost questioned whether the state investigation would affect the jury trial, originally scheduled for Aug. 6.
Goempel’s attorney, Heidi Hanni, whom he contacted after declining to use the court-appointed attorney, said the state office contacted her to inform her a subpoena was issued for the boy’s cell phone.
“All I know is they are investigating the matter. They have to determine if the phone was tampered with,” she said.
The phone will be the property of the state for a few days, during which time all records will be investigated, and then it will be given back to the boy.
Forsythe said a video of Goempel’s blood alcohol test conducted at the police station on May 24 was turned over to Hanni for review.
Hanni was hired by Goempel on July 10 and she requested the Aug. 6 trial be continued due to prior commitments before taking on his case.
Frost granted that request and rescheduled the trial for 9 a.m. Oct. 15. A motion hearing was set for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 6.