Monday, June 25, 2018
Public safety

Investigation flawed in Moye's DUI manslaughter case

TAMPA — How does a drunken driver who runs over and kills two pedestrians get a plea deal for 12 years in prison?

In the controversial case of Riverview dentist Matthew Moye, a defense attorney's summary of police depositions suggests the investigation had serious flaws.

A potential key witness was never found. Video was destroyed. There wasn't enough manpower. A detective warned his sergeant, "Things are gonna be missed."

After Moye's sentencing this week, one victim's family members said they wanted to see him get more time in prison. In recent years, other DUI manslaughter cases around the Tampa Bay area have resulted in sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years, putting Moye's toward the lower end.

The plea deal favored both sides, said Clearwater defense attorney Kevin Hayslett, who handled hundreds of DUI cases as a prosecutor and now represents clients in four DUI manslaughter cases.

"Dr. Moye got a lower sentence than what someone typically would get with two deaths with these horrific facts," Hayslett said. "However, there were issues with the investigation that were raised by the defense where the prosecutor thought it was in their best interest to offer a plea deal that guaranteed a conviction so the victims would not have to relive the night's events in a drawn-out trial."

Moye, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday to DUI manslaughter in the Oct. 30, 2010, deaths of Douglas Kozar, 23, and Kate Kohlier, 24, who died instantly when his Cadillac struck them on the Harbour Island bridge.

Investigators say he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent — above the 0.08 percent at which Florida law assumes a driver to be impaired.

Defense attorney Steve Romine used sworn depositions to compile an outline of more than 140 gaps, inconsistencies and other potential problems with the state's case. He gave it to prosecutors when the two sides discussed a plea.

After reading a copy of the summary that the Times obtained from prosecutors Friday, Kozar's father said he was "very disappointed."

"I think the people of Tampa should be outraged at the total incompetence of the department in investigating this accident," Russ Kozar said from his home in New York. "We really wanted him to get more time than 12 years." Had police done a better investigation, prosecutors "could have taken him to court and probably could have gotten him more time."

None of the officers whose depositions were at issue could be reached Friday. Hillsborough State Attorney's Office spokesman Mark Cox declined to comment on whether the summary was accurate or whether it influenced the offer and terms of the plea agreement.

Based on issues brought up in the case, "we're now conducting a full review of how this case was handled," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. Still, she said, "reading defense statements out of context is like reading distorted Cliffs Notes, and we have to read the entire book."

"If all the allegations were true and accurate," she said, "then the defense would have never offered a 12-year prison sentence in a case where the minimum sentence was four years. It is the role of defense attorneys to try to discredit everything law enforcement does."

But Romine maintains that problems in the investigation played a role in how the case ended. "All of the details in here obviously made a difference in the state's view of the case," he said. "All of the details in here matter when you're asking was a proper investigation done? Were things not done that could have aided Mr. Moye? Aided the state?"

'Clear this real quick'

According to Romine's summary, Tampa police Detective Roderick Glyder said:

• Too few people were assigned to the case.

• He asked for help but didn't get it.

• When he asked for a computer-aided device to map the scene, he was told the people who ran it weren't available.

"Things are gonna be missed," Glyder said he told Sgt. Doug Groves.

About two hours into his investigation, Groves tried to send Glyder to another fatal accident.

Asked what he thought of the sergeant saying "clear this real quick," Glyder said, "Absurd."

Not 87 mph

The Police Department's reconstruction of the accident was incorrect on several points, including that Moye's car hit a raised median and, a witness said, went into the air.

A defense expert later concluded that Moye's car must have been going closer to 47 mph when it went out of control — not the 87 mph that authorities said.

While the car's black box might have showed 87 mph, that's not based on what registers on the speedometer but how fast the wheel was spinning, and the witness said the car was airborne.

Further, when police consulted with Edmunds.com personnel who tried to re-create the acceleration in the accident, they were told that Cadillac could not hit the black-box speed in the 600-foot distance in question.

Moye told the first officer who approached him at the scene that he was trying to avoid an accident with another vehicle and hit the center median. Glyder didn't hear about that statement until his deposition this year.

A taxicab was at the scene, witnesses said, and the defense raises the possibility that's what Moye was trying to avoid. A witness said he could not keep the cabbie from leaving. The taxi driver has not been found.

Surveillance video was destroyed

Police got one surveillance video from the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina showing part of the road where the crash happened, but not a video from a different camera showing the approach to the bridge.

The hotel later destroyed the second video, and a hotel employee contradicted Glyder's statements about whether the detective reviewed the video or asked the hotel to do so for him.

An officer charged

At the scene of the crash, Moye complained of his head hitting the pavement after Officer Gregory Pryor took him to the ground and handcuffed him. Moye was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.

In April, Pryor was charged with giving law enforcement officers false information and obstructing officers without violence in an unrelated case.

Sheriff's deputies said Pryor was in an accident on Interstate 75 near Ruskin in late 2012. He told them someone named Jacob was driving but would not describe Jacob, who he said ran away. He later told a clinic and his insurance company that he was driving, and his DNA was found on the car's airbag, according to an arrest report. The charge was dismissed in October after Pryor completed a misdemeanor intervention program.

Pryor has been on administrative duty while TPD did its own internal affairs investigation, which was completed after the court case ended. He now faces a complaint review board, which is standard for any officer facing suspension, demotion or termination. After that, his discipline will be decided, McElroy said.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writers Sue Carlton, Dan Sullivan and Arielle Waldman contributed to this report.

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