Judge tosses evidence in Rep. Parker's DUI case

State Rep. Cherelle Parker
State Rep. Cherelle Parker
Posted: November 02, 2011

A WELL-connected city politician, who on Monday was elected chairwoman of the Philadelphia delegation in the state House of Representatives, prevailed in criminal court yesterday when a judge threw out all the evidence in her drunk-driving case.

That evidence against state Rep. Cherelle Parker, 39, included a Breathalyzer test that measured her blood-alcohol level at .16, or twice the legal limit, said a dejected state Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo.

"I'm a Philadelphia resident," said Costanzo, whose office handled the case at the request of city District Attorney Seth Williams. "For 52 years I've lived here all my life. I understand how things go around here. No, I'm not surprised."

Williams handed off the case to the state because he "is friends with state Rep. Parker, and it would have been a conflict of interest if our office prosecuted the case," Williams' spokeswoman, Tasha Jamerson, told the Daily News in August.

Municipal Judge Charles Hayden's decision to suppress all evidence due to what he said were credibility concerns about the two arresting officers derailed Parker's nonjury trial, which had been scheduled for yesterday. Hayden based his ruling on testimony that Parker and officers Israel Miranda and Stephanie Allen gave during a Sept. 20 motion hearing.

The officers testified that Parker, in a state-registered car just after midnight April 30, drove the wrong way down one-way Haines Street, in Germantown.

After pulling over the Democrat who represents the 200th Legislative District in northwest Philly, the officers noticed that her eyes were glassy, that she smelled of alcohol, that her speech was slowed and that she was unsteady on her feet, they testified.

Miranda testified that Parker had told him that she had had two chocolate martinis and two beers. Parker angrily denied that in testimony, telling Hayden that she had only one martini after leaving a function at Club Champagne, on Chelten Avenue.

She also denied having driven the wrong way down Haines. She insisted that she had driven down Baynton Street instead.

Yesterday, Judge Hayden sided with Parker, granting the request of defense attorney Joseph Kelly to suppress all evidence.

"Police Officer Miranda was less than truthful in matters of importance in this case," Hayden said, noting that he doubted Miranda's statement that there were no other cars on the busy Germantown street at the time.

He noted that Allen first testified that no other cars were on the street, but changed her testimony during cross-examination.

Hayden also said he was "troubled" that Miranda had testified that he had made some 200 driving-under-the-influence arrests in his career but that only half of those charged had been found guilty.

Hayden, former chief counsel for U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, and Parker, a former aide to City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, both come from political camps that are part of the Northwest Alliance, an influential coalition of city Democrats that includes Fattah, Tasco and state Rep. Dwight Evans.

Deputy Attorney General Costanzo blasted Hayden's ruling and said his office would decide on whether to appeal within 30 days. If no appeal is filed, the DUI charge against Parker will be dropped.

"I'm a little surprised that a city judge would find two police officers who testified - in my opinion - consistently about an incident less credible than someone who blew a .16 blood alcohol" reading, he said.

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