Ex-cop cleared of hit-and-run charges

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Former Southgate police officer Mitchell Heaney was acquitted of felony charges for an August 2011 accident, and was found guilty of one misdemeanor Thursday.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller said Heaney was found guilty of a moving violation causing serious impairment, a misdemeanor punishable by 93 days in jail.

Following two days’ testimony and evidence before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Carole Youngblood, a jury acquitted Heaney of two charges: failure to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident, a five-year felony, and leaving the scene of a property damage accident, a 93-day misdemeanor.

Prosecutors said that, about 5 a.m., Aug. 22, Heaney was driving a vehicle belonging to a friend when he struck a motorcycle on Telegraph Road in Brownstown Township. The collision resulted in extensive injuries to the rider, Rockwood resident John Carter, and damage to both the 1999 Harley-Davidson and his friend’s car, a 2000 Mercury Cougar.

Miller said Carter suffered a broken leg, a punctured lung and three broken ribs.

Heaney left the scene after the accident, stopped at a gas station, and returned the vehicle unaware that the bumper and license plate were left behind, which directed police to the vehicle’s owner and, subsequently, Heaney.

Defense attorneys maintained that Heaney was not aware of the accident or injury. The Harley connected with the rear bumper of the Cougar, a fact not disputed while the extent of the damage was difficult to prove. Witnesses reportedly testified that the investigation failed to provide evidence of the damage, or a sobriety test for Heaney — too much time elapsed between the accident and when police spoke with Heaney.

Defense attorneys cited the police work as allowing sufficient reasonable doubt that Heaney was aware of the accident when he left the scene.

In the aftermath of the accident and arrest last year, Heaney was placed on leave from the Southgate Police Department before being dismissed from the department following an internal investigation.

Heaney is scheduled for sentencing May 3.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)