Does a hash brown look like a cellphone? A Connecticut police officer thought so when he ticketed a Westport man on suspicion of distracted driving last year, but a state Superior Court Justice said no.
“Not guilty! Justice prevails!” Jason Stiber wrote in an email to the Westport News after Judge Maureen Dennis released her decision.
“It was the case of the century,” Stiber’s attorney, John Thygerson, told The Washington Post with a laugh. “(Stiber) was quite pleased. Obviously, he was quite pleased.”
Stiber, 45, was pulled over April 11, 2018, around 6 a.m. after he bought a hash brown at a McDonald’s restaurant in Norwalk. Westport police Cpl. Wong Won issued a $300 citation for distracted driving, the News reported.
“I was eating a hash brown and he thought he saw a cellphone near my mouth,” Stiber told the newspaper in November.
Stiber represented himself in court and provided phone records showing he did not make any calls during that time period and had Bluetooth capabilities in his car, but he lost the case, the News reported. Stiber asked for a retrial, which was granted and took place in February.
During the retrial, Wong testified he “clearly” saw Stiber speaking into a black cellphone while driving that morning, The Hour reported in February.
Thygerson explained that Stiber’s lip movement was “consistent with chewing” the hash brown he had ordered, the Post reported.
“He was pulled over for talking on his cellphone and given an infraction. I’m sure his claim is different,” Lt. Jillian Cabana told the News in November.
The judge sided with Stiber’s claim.
“I just think this is a classic example of the truism that cops make mistakes. They’re human beings like everyone else, and sometimes they get things wrong,” Thygerson told the News.