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Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ex-police officer sentenced in drunken driving accident

January 29, 2006

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— A former police officer was sentenced to two days in jail and two years probation for leaving the scene of a drunken driving accident involving two people on horseback.

In imposing the sentence Friday, Judge Robert Fleming said John Zappa had been punished enough.

As part of a plea agreement, Zappa pleaded guilty in October to reduced charges of reckless battery, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving - all misdemeanors.

He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The accident happened in July 2003 after Zappa left a welcome-home party, thrown for him in honor of his return from an Army deployment at the Galena home of Cherokee County Magistrate Judge Bill Lyerla.

While driving Lyerla's car, Zappa, an Army sergeant, ran into a horse. The accident spooked a nearby horse, causing it to rear up and throw its rider. Both riders were treated for injuries at a hospital.

Calling his actions stupid, Zappa apologized to both riders during the sentencing hearing, though neither attended. He also apologized to Lyerla for embarrassment he caused him and to the city of Columbus.

"It's amazing how one man's actions can cause so much grief," Zappa said.

Zappa, who surrendered his police certification for three years as part of the plea agreement, said he would never be a police officer again, though it was his life's dream.

"For the last 2 1/2 years, I feel like I've served a lot of time," he said, though he added he was not asking for sympathy. "I have no excuse."

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