An operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol case and related charges against a Tisbury man were dropped in Edgartown District Court Monday morning after prosecutors for the Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office declined to prosecute the case any further.
The charges stem from a 2019 motor vehicle stop by Tisbury Police. Per a report, Eugene Jemison allegedly had the odor of alcohol emanating from his vehicle, allegedly refused a Breathalyzer test, allegedly underperformed on field sobriety tests, allegedly admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages, and allegedly spoke in a slurred manner.
In the face of such evidence, defense attorney Ryan Searle launched a sweeping discovery motion bent on collecting Tisbury Police records that might indicate the race of people given citations by the department. The hunt for those records was made in furtherance of a theory that racial bias might be in play. Searle also filed a lengthy motion to suppress evidence in the case. Earlier this year, Searle made headway in getting the records she sought, despite the Tisbury Police Department having a records destruction campaign underway. After a sidebar on Monday with Judge Edward Lynch, Searle, and the prosecution, prosecutors opted to file a nolle prosequi, which eliminated all charges in the case.
In addition to the OUI charge, which would have been his second offense, Jemison faced negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, open container in a motor vehicle, not being in possession of a driver’s license, and a marked lanes violation.
It’s unclear if Searle’s motion to suppress was upheld, or if the commonwealth opted to drop the case before a determination was made. Reached outside the courthouse, Jemison described the outcome as “an early Christmas present.” Jemison declined to comment further until he could consult with his attorney.
Jemison, a Black Lives Matter activist, has had a topsy-turvy relationship with the Tisbury Police Department. In June 2020, Jemison, according to a report, was told by Tisbury Police Sgt. Jeff Day to move a vehicle from the parking lot of the U.S. Post Office. When Jemison did so, Sgt. Day pulled him over and charged him with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. Day’s report indicates he was aware Jemison had a suspended license due to the 2019 OUI stop. Based on that knowledge, it’s unclear why he had him move a vehicle.
The charge was dismissed in Edgartown District Court in June, following a motion from the prosecution. In the autumn of 2020, with numerous charges pending against him, Jemison had a sit-down with then Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio. The two discussed Jemison working for the department in some capacity. Nothing appears to have ever come of that.
An X factor in Searle’s defense of Jemison appears to have been Sgt. Day. Unlike the arresting officer in the OUI case, Charles Duquette, who has a clean record, Day, who also participated in Jemison’s OUI arrest, has a tarnished past. Emails obtained by The Times from the Chilmark Police Department and the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office show that the prosecution was aware of Day’s record. Day was placed on leave from the Tisbury Police Department in February, and subsequently resigned from the department in May. Internal investigation records alleged Day stole a handgun while he was a Chilmark Police officer after a citizen turned it in for disposal, and also allege Day lied to his superiors in Tisbury about that situation. Police reports and other records show Day falsely arrested a man in the center of Tisbury because he believed the way the man walked was similar to the gait of somebody else with an outstanding warrant.
Searle has employed Brady arguments as part of her defense of Jemison. “The Brady Rule, named after Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), requires prosecutors to disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession to the defense,” online material from Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute states. “Brady material,” or evidence the prosecutor is required to disclose under this rule include any evidence favorable to the accused — evidence that goes toward negating a defendant’s guilt, that would reduce a defendant’s potential sentence, or evidence going to the credibility of a witness.”
Searle also applied Brady arguments and a motion to suppress evidence in the OUI case of Josuel Lopes Desouza, also a Tisbury Police matter. Desouza was also charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, open container in a motor vehicle, no inspection sticker, and a marked lanes violation. Desouza appeared alongside Jemison in court Monday. His case was not resolved, however, and is slated to return to court on Jan. 5.