Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Inquiry Targets a State Trooper

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Inquiry Targets a State Trooper

Article excerpt

UNDER OATH: Venice-based patrolman's testimony in DUI trial is in question

SARASOTA COUNTY

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating whether a trooper from the Venice office testified falsely under oath last month about a DUI arrest he made.

They are also investigating why no one took any action after the State Attorney's Office warned them more than a month ago that there were inconsistencies in the trooper's testimony.

Scott Kunstmann, a trooper since 2007, was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation. He declined to comment.

Allegations about Kunstmann were first raised by Robert Culbertson, whom the trooper arrested last November for DUI while the 71-year-old retiree was southbound on I-75.

Culbertson said much of what he read in the trooper's arrest report and heard when the trooper testified under oath in a deposition does not match his recollections of events. It also does not match the events recorded on the trooper's own dash-mounted video camera.

Culbertson's defense attorney, Andrea Mogensen, said the trooper was not truthful in either his arrest report or during an April 3 deposition she conducted.

"He knowingly made false statements under oath," she said. "I think the agency really needs to take a serious look at their policy of reviewing the work of their troopers."

The State Attorney's Office threw out Culbertson's case on the eve of trial, just as jury selection was set to begin.

Once the charges were dismissed, Assistant State Attorney Spencer Rasnake said he warned Kunstmann's supervisor there were problems with the trooper's testimony.

"On our end, inconsistencies created by the deposition and the report made it difficult for us to go forward," Rasnake said. "At this point, we don't have enough information to say he made a false statement. Any criminal investigation would need to be conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol or FDLE. …

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