A caption accompanying a picture of Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) and two other persons in later editions yesterday incorrectly identified the woman shown. She is Shelly Stokes-Hammond, daughter of the congressman.
Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) yesterday was granted his request--over strenuous objections from Montgomery County prosecutors--for a trial by jury on three traffic charges, including one for driving while intoxicated, lodged against him by county police.
In another development, a lawyer for Stokes sought yesterday to suppress statements allegedly made by police that Stokes told them he had been drinking before he was stopped March 25 and that drinking was common in Congress.
Stokes was stopped by police in Wheaton at about 2 a.m. March 25, about two hours after a night session of Congress adjourned. Police have stated that Stokes had been driving on the wrong side of six-lane Randolph Road, run a red light and made an illegal U-turn. Police say the congressman failed three roadside sobriety tests. Stokes was charged with driving while intoxicated, failing to obey an automatic signal and failure to keep to the right of center.
Stokes' trial on the charges is set for July 6 in the county Circuit Court.
Stokes refused to comment to the crowd of reporters who attended yesterday's hearing. He has previously denied not only the charges but having anything to drink the night in question.
Attorney R. Kenneth Mundy said in court papers filed yesterday that after Stokes was taken to the Wheaton police station, one police officer allegedly told the congressman, "Well, you are free to go because I think you have congressional immunity but, just for grins, how about taking the sobriety test?"
According to the document, police are expected to testify that Stokes replied with words to the effect, "No, I don't need to take your tests because I know how much I have had to drink." Police are also expected to testify that Stokes went on to say that he had had several drinks at the U.S. House of Representatives, that he kept alcoholic beverages in his office and that members of Congress sometimes imbibed even on the floor of Congress, according to the defense document.
Stokes "emphatically denies making these statements," the document asserts, but pretrial interviews "suggest that police officers will testify to their utterance."
Mundy argued in his motion that all these alleged statements should be suppressed because Stokes was never advised of his constitutional rights, as required before an interrogation. Mundy also argued that although police said Stokes was "free to go," he, in effect, was still in police custody because his car had been impounded and he was "surrounded only by antagonistic forces."
Stokes' attorneys requested yesterday's hearing after the prosecution asserted it would oppose their request for a jury trial. Yesterday, Thomas Heeney, the congressman's other attorney, argued that Stokes had a constitutional right to trial before a jury, rather than before a judge, and that the prosecutions's opposition was "nothing more than an attempt to enhance the possible chance for conviction."
Prosecutor Robert Greenberg, however, argued that under state law judges may, and often do, turn down requests for jury trials in traffic cases, which, barring a special request, are normally tried before a judge in the county's misdemeanor court, called the District Court. The state law was passed, Greenberg said, to prevent cases sent from the District Court from clogging the calendar of the Circuit Court, which usually hears felony cases.
Judge Thomas A. Lohm, however, ruled that "an individual's rights come ahead of the Circuit Court" calendar and granted Stokes' request.
Mundy also filed a motion asking the court to suppress allegations by two police officers that Stokes failed three roadside sobriety tests after he was stopped on a Wheaton road. Mundy argued that Stokes was not given an opportunity to take a scientific sobriety test, such as a Breathalyzer, which would have determined the alcohol level in his body.
The officers' observations of the roadside tests are key to the prosecution's case because Stokes was not given a Breathalyzer test that night.