A former county police officer charged with drunken driving after crashing a marked police cruiser -- while he was still a member of the force -- was acquitted of alcohol-related charges yesterday.
A Circuit Court jury deliberated less than 20 minutes before finding Edward E. McKenzie, 25, guilty of negligent driving, but not guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. A charge of driving while intoxicated was thrown out by Judge Eugene M. Lerner after the prosecution concluded its case against McKenzie.
McKenzie was employed as a patrol officer in the Western Districtwhen he crashed his police cruiser at about 4 a.m. last Aug. 24 on Route 408 near Fiorenza Drive. McKenzie, who was off-duty at the time of the crash, suffered minor injuries when the 1990
Ford LTD hit a tree.
The car, which was demolished, had been assigned to another officer who was on vacation, and McKenzie had been temporarily assignedto the vehicle, a police spokesman said.
Testimony in yesterday'strial showed two police officers noted a slight-to-moderate odor of alcohol on McKenzie's breath after the accident, Assistant State's Attorney John LeCornu said. The prosecutor said no tests were conductedtodetermine the blood-alcohol level of the officer's blood.
Afterbeing found guilty of negligent driving, Lerner ordered McKenzie to pay a $45 fine plus court costs.
McKenzie, of the 100 block of Konrad Morgan Way in Lothian, joined the department's police academy in September 1989 and was certified as an officer in February 1990. He resigned from the force last September.
McKenzie filed a civil suitin county Circuit Court in October, charging he was given a choice between resigning or being fired. The suit, filed against ex-Police Chief George Wellham, says McKenzie received no hearing on the threatened dismissal because he was still on probation as a rookie officer.
In the suit, McKenzie is seeking a hearing and reinstatement to thepolice force with back pay plus interest.