A Town of Tonawanda police officer and his wife have been charged following a motor vehicle crash in January.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the early-morning crash happened on Englewood Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda between an Uber driver in one vehicle and town cop Howard Scholl III, 36, and his wife Aimee Scholl, 33, in another. Flynn said the Uber driver suffered minor injuries and has recovered.
"Mr. Scholl was araigned on two charges. The first charge is falsifying a business record in the second degree, that is a Class A misdemeanor, and a second charge is insurance fraud in the fifth degree, also a Class A misdemeanor," Flynn said. "Mr. Scholl's wife was charged with just one count of falsifying a business records in the second degree and, again, that's a Class A misdemeanor."
Flynn said the charges stem from Scholl telling an on-scene paramedic and his insurance company that his wife was driving at the time of the accident, when an investigation found it was Scholl. He said the couple had been at Sinatra's Restaurant before the crash.
Both are scheduled to return to court July 10 and were released on their own recogizance. They are facing up to a year in prison if convicted.
Flynn said Officer Scholl was not given a breathalyzer test at the scene.
"She was given a roadside breath test. It came back positive for alcohol," he said. "A roadside breath test, though, is inadmissible in a court of law, so I'm not going to comment on what it exactly read because it's inadmissible in the law and she wasn't driving, so it's a moot point."
Flynn said it was "below the level of impariment," but he was "a little bit" agitated by the fact that officers on the scene did not follow-up on the breath test at the police station and that Officer Scholl was allowed to drive himself and his wife home after the crash.
"That's not the best procedure, but it's not outrageous," he said.
Town of Tonawanda judges recused themselves from the case, so the couple was arraigned in Amherst Town Court Thursday. After the arraignment, Flynn said the Scholls were allowed to exit the court building through the back door. He believes that was an unacceptable appearance of favoritism toward law enforcement.
"The fact of the matter is, I am the face of the criminal justice system in this county, so that makes, in essence, me look bad and that was unacceptable," Flynn said. "My ADA had no knowledge of that at all and my ADA who was out there had no part in that at all. The court and the court officiers took it upon themselves to Mr. Scholl and his wife out the back door, and as the face of criminal justice in Erie County, I apologize for that."
Flynn said Town of Tonawanda Police have also conducted their own internal investigation of the crash and will decide what further action may be warranted.
"I did not become aware of this thing until the Town Board brought it to my attention perhaps a week, eight days later," Flynn said. "So in that period, the Town of Tonawanda conducted their own investigation in this matter. When the Town Board decided that it would be more appropriate that I conduct the investigation, they then turned over all materials over to me and that was part of my investigation."