BROOKSVILLE — As a former veteran New Port Richey police officer, John Michael Nohejl is accustomed to traffic stops. On Tuesday, a jury heard what happened when Nohejl was pulled over in Spring Hill earlier this year.
The stop resulted in Nohejl's arrest on charges of drug trafficking, evidence tampering and fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement. In the first full day of Nohejl's trial in Hernando County Circuit Court, prosecutors laid out their version of what happened on the afternoon of Jan. 17.
Hernando vice detective Julio Tagliani testified that he and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent stopped Nohejl, 35, for speeding on Deltona Boulevard. Tagliani said Nohejl refused to provide identification and drove off when he was ordered to get out of his car.
Tagliani and a Hernando patrol deputy in a marked cruiser caught up to him a block away. During a search of the Kia, investigators found one hydrocodone pill on the driver's-side floorboard. They also noticed the passenger-side window, closed during the first stop, was now open. In a front yard on that side of the road, about 100 feet behind the Kia, a deputy found a cellophane wrapper holding 27 pills that matched the one on the floorboard.
Assistant State Attorney Donald "Sonny" McCathran acknowledged during his opening remarks that no one saw Nohejl throw the pills.
"You'll see the pills yourself," McCathran said. "They're marked in a very particular way, and they all look the same."
Defense attorney Michael Kenny tried to plant the notion that Nohejl wasn't sure he was being pulled over by officers. Kenny noted that Tagliani was in an unmarked car, never identified himself as a law enforcement officer, and was not wearing the green uniform of a patrol deputy.
Kenny also noted that no fingerprints were found on the cellophane wrapper.
At the time of his arrest, Nohejl was on suspension from the New Port Richey department and had a lengthy disciplinary record, but Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti on Monday granted a defense motion to keep prosecutors from mentioning what Nohejl did for a living.
Last fall, authorities determined Nohejl had obtained hundreds of pills of oxycodone, OxyContin and diazepam and showed up to work at least one time under the influence. He was fired in February after 13 years on the force.
The trial is expected to conclude today. If convicted on all three charges, Nohejl faces up to 40 years in prison.