MOUNT VERNON — The activities director at Mount Vernon High School was found guilty and sentenced for an OVI charge in Mount Vernon Municipal Court on Thursday.
Justin L. Sanford, 43, was found guilty of one charge of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence and he was sentenced to 180 days of jail, with 174 days of it suspended. Of the remaining six days, he was given three days in a driver intervention program and the other three in jail.
Sanford was also sentenced to two years of community control and a drug and alcohol assessment and his driver’s license was suspended for a year from the date of the incident.
The charge stems from a traffic stop in October of 2018 in Mount Vernon.
Sanford was originally stopped for failure to signal in the early hours of Oct. 27 by Mount Vernon patrolman Justin Willis, who was one of three witnesses to testify in the jury trial.
During his testimony, the officer stated he had detected an odor of alcohol after stopping Sanford’s vehicle and after interacting with him on the scene, Willis initiated a series of sobriety tests.
According to Willis, each of the tests has a specific number of clues that can indicate impairment in various ways. During his testimony, he said that the first test, called HGN, had six possible clues about vision and eyes and he had determined that Sanford showed all six. In the walk-and-turn test, Sanford displayed five clues and then he showed two in the one-leg test that involved balance. The combination of those test results, as well as other details from the scene, led to his arrest.
Prosecutor Brittany Whitney and defense attorney Daniel Sabol both questioned and cross-examined Willis on the stand about the details of the sobriety testing.
After showing video from Willis’s body camera as well as squad car footage from the night of the incident, Sabol questioned the officer’s procedures during the tests as well as the slippery weather on the uneven brick street in Mount Vernon, while Whitney pointed out Sanford’s behavior before, during and after the testing process.
After his arrest, Sanford was taken to the Knox County Jail and booked. While there, he was offered to take breath or urine tests to determine if he was impaired and he refused to do both, which automatically resulted in a one-year suspension of his driver’s license.
Deputy Sheriff Missy Wheeler, who worked at the jail as a booking officer at the time, testified that she remembered Sanford refusing to take the tests and that his eyes were glossy when he was there.
After the witness testimony and closing arguments from both Whitney and Sabol, the jury of five women and three men deliberated for nearly 90 minutes before rendering the guilty verdict.
Mount Vernon Superintendent Bill Seder was unavailable for comment as of press time.
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