by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
ALPHARETTA, Ga. - An Alpharetta city councilman has been acquitted on charges he drove drunk with his son in his car.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik was the only reporter in the courtroom Friday when Judge Patsy Porter handed down her decision.
She ruled the officer who arrested Michael Cross didn’t have probable cause because he didn’t witness Cross driving erratically and because he detained Cross first, then asked questions later.
During a brief trial, witness Andrew Alexander testified that he called 911 after he saw Cross nearly turn the wrong way onto Ga. 400 that night.
“I noticed a green SUV driving erratically,” Alexander testified in Fulton State Court Friday. “I was concerned for the safety of the people on the road.”
Alexander said he was most concerned because he could see a young boy in the
Alpharetta police officer Clinton Martin testified that he caught up with Cross and noticed him “jerk” his vehicle while changing lanes. That’s when he said he pulled the councilman over.
"There was an odor of alcohol coming from where he was at,” Martin testified.
Martin testified he is trained in basic DUI traffic stops, but has no specialized training. He said he called for a DUI specialist, but dispatch told him none
Martin said Cross refused to take a breath test or submit to a state-issued blood test, but that he believed Cross
’ “manifestations” were consistent with someone driving under the influence.
On a dash cam video played in court, Cross could be heard telling the officer he’d had one drink three hours prior to the traffic stop, and that he didn’t believe Martin had probable cause to pull him over.
Cross could also be heard calling his wife to ask him to pick up their 7-year-old son.
After the acquittal, Cross told Petchenik he’s been waiting to be exonerated.
“For the last 11 months and change I’ve been an unwilling participant in the criminal justice system, but I was grateful and very relieved to find the judge made the decision,” he said. “I think it was the right decision.”
Defense attorney Larry Kohn said it was clear the officer mishandled the traffic stop.
“He placed Mr. Cross under arrest within a short period of time after encountering him,” he told Petchenik. “He never witnessed any bad driving on his own. In addition, he then wanted to ask Mr. Cross a bunch of questions after he’d already placed him under arrest. That was a bell he simply could not un-ring.”