Jessamine County

Judge denies motion to dismiss DUI case against Austin Kearns

A Jessamine County District Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss a drunken-driving case against Major League Baseball player Austin Kearns.

Attorneys for Kearns, a Lexington native and outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, said the traffic stop that resulted in Kearns' arrest was illegal because it was conducted by an off-duty Lexington police officer in Jessamine County.

Lexington Officer Todd Hart, who lives in Jessamine County, was out of his legal jurisdiction when he pulled Kearns over for erratic driving Feb. 12, defense attorneys said.

According to a judge's order denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Janet Booth ruled Tuesday that the traffic stop was legal under a Kentucky law that permits officers to assist other jurisdictions that request their help. Hart called Jessamine County 911 dispatchers after he witnessed Kearns' Cadillac Escalade weaving and driving without headlights on Golf Club Drive at 2:34 a.m.

Jessamine County Sheriff Sergeant Todd Sponcil told the dispatcher to tell Hart to make the stop "if he's got enough PC (probable cause)," and sheriff's deputies would make the arrest. Kearns' attorneys argued that wasn't an "official request for assistance" under Kentucky law.

The judge's order said the request was official because Sponcil "was the ranking officer on duty." The court also does not have the authority to dismiss the case entirely. "This authority rests solely with the Commonwealth," the order said.

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