Training day or golf outing? Repair shop overheating after court delay

It can be stressful to have to go to court and frustrating when you have to go multiple times.
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 5:03 PM EDT
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CRESTWOOD, Ky. (WAVE) - Ben Edens has been a master mechanic for decades and the workload never lets up.

”As you can see now one, two, three of these vehicles, which is close to 40 hours of work, will be done by about Wednesday,” Edens said. “When I’m not here half the day, none of that stuff moves.”

He wasn’t there half the day on June 5th because he had to go to court to answer a texting while driving citation he got while stopped at a light in Oldham County.

”I ended up going to court the first time to discuss it,” Edens said. “The officer didn’t show up. The attorney wasn’t versed on what the statute was.”

He said they offered him a diversion.

”Which I wasn’t interested in,” Edens said. “The law stated the vehicle had to be in motion, and I was literally stopped at a red light at the time.”

He took more time off work for the next court appearance on June 19 and the deputy who cited him wasn’t there. The court document listed the reason for the deputy’s absence as “in-service training.”

Now the owner of the repair shop was overheating. He boiled over when he saw on Facebook where the deputy really was on June 19th: at the sheriff’s golf scramble.

”I saw the Facebook post and someone pointed out that’s the deputy,” Certified Auto Service owner Steve Heggie said. “And I said, ‘No that’s got to be a mistake because it clearly says he had in-service training.’ When I see this I’m shocked beyond belief because that’s not the way things are supposed to happen, especially in a courtroom.”

Heggie figures those fruitless court trips cost him over $2,000 and cost Edens between $500 and $1,000.

”What happens is the tech doesn’t get paid, I don’t get paid,” Heggie said. “But more importantly, you my customer, you’re now without a car for another day.”

So he started firing off emails to the court which read in part:

”Sheriff’s deputy Michael Meece wasn’t present, due to in-service training the court was told, but in fact, Deputy Meece was at the OC Country Club attending the OC Sheriff’s Golf Scramble fundraiser...“

”This is a slap in the face for the defendant, his employer, and the court system...“

”I wonder how often this actually happens?”

WAVE News wondered that too and requested any kind of data from the state Administrative Office of the Courts on how often court hearings are postponed or charges dismissed because of officers not showing up.

“We don’t track this data,” was the response, and they “don’t know of any other agency that would have this data.”

Out more income now, taking off work for his third court date July 17th, Ben Edens waited while the defendant before him was told his case had to be postponed because that officer had in-service training. Then it was Edens’ turn. While the master mechanic regularly used an owner’s manual to repair vehicles this time he referred to the state law manual to defend himself.

”Texting while driving bans indicate the vehicle must be in motion,” Edens told the judge. “And we both indicated the vehicle was stopped.”

After three trips to court costing him as much as $1,000 in income Ben Edens beat the rap on his $25 ticket.

”The court cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt without additional evidence that you were texting while the car was in motion,” the judge said. “For that reason, the court can’t find beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty of this offense.”

However, the most important issue of reasonable doubt to Edens and his boss involved the “in-service training” excuse for the deputy’s missed court appearance. So I asked the deputy about it after the hearing.

”What they’re really mad about was, in-training, means something to them, not a golf scramble,” I said.

“So yes I was at the Kentucky Sheriffs boys and girls ranch golf scramble,” Meece said. “I wasn’t participating or playing. I was helping coordinate it, where all the proceeds go to the Kentucky sheriff’s boys and girls ranch. So yes that is correct.”

”Do you think working at a golf scramble should be considered ‘in-training?’” I asked.

“I can’t say what he was told sir,” Meece said. “All I can do is tell you what I told the county and the commonwealth’s attorney, and they agreed to change the court date to today’s date.”

”So you never told anybody you were ‘in-training?’” I said.

“I never did, no sir,” Meece said.

“Did you tell them you were going to a golf scramble?” I asked.

“I did,” he said.

“And they were OK with that?” I asked.

“Sir I’ve answered your questions,” Meece said.

His answers didn’t cool down Edens’ engine.

”To me, in-service training indicates an officer has training or some other form of a job-based duty,” Edens said. “While I was sitting in court having to give up a day of work to be here, so they could play golf, is pretty frustrating to me.”

The County Attorney confirmed Deputy Meece’s story that he never claimed he was “in-training.” Berry Baxter said, “The error in why he was unavailable is entirely due to a mistake in my office.”

Baxter said he has spoken with his staff and “stressed the importance of being correct about the reasons when we request a matter to be rescheduled.”