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Lack of video helps lawyer beat charges
Paul Duval Johnson had been accused of DUI, leaving accident.
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published July 31, 2007
TAMPA - Since police accused him of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a crash, defense attorney Paul Duval Johnson has poked holes all over the investigation.
One big hole helped him to beat the charges.
Johnson convinced a judge this month to dismiss the DUI case after Tampa police Officer James Blanchard was unable to provide the video of the Oct. 3, 2006, investigation and arrest.
On Friday, prosecutors dropped the leaving the scene of a crash charge as well.
That leaves Johnson, 49, with only a minor traffic infraction to resolve before the events of the fall are behind him.
Blanchard responded to the intersection of Morrison and Himes avenues following reports that Johnson kept going after the driver's side mirror on his 2000 Jaguar convertible hit another vehicle's mirror.
Johnson said in a sworn affidavit that he did not believe he had been involved in a car accident.
The officer said he smelled alcohol on Johnson's breath and noticed that the lawyer had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
Johnson refused to take a blood-alcohol test and lost his driving privileges.
But in December, a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles hearing officer set aside the suspension. The hearing officer cited "insufficient evidence" to support probable cause that Johnson had driven under the influence.
Blanchard supplied the defense with two videos, a 29-second clip that showed Johnson leaning against his car at the start of the investigation and a 16-minute clip of him riding silently to Orient Road Jail after his arrest.
The police officer said he probably forgot to burn a copy of the actual investigation or that his digital recorder might not have properly activated.
Johnson and his co-counsel, Eddie Suarez, argued in written motions that the video evidence would have disproved the officer's version of events.
Hillsborough County Judge Elizabeth Rice blamed the loss of evidence on "inadvertent human error" and threw out the DUI charge, prosecutor Douglas Covington said.
The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office dismissed the other charge against Johnson due to a lack of damage on either vehicle.
Johnson and Suarez could not be reached for comment.