Trooper pleads guilty

Jason Fantone

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The Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper who was fired and reinstated for a violent outburst at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2011 pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lesser charges following a drunk driving arrest last week.

State Trooper Jason R. Fantone, 36, pleaded guilty to having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in Mahoning County Austintown Area Court.

Fantone, who was originally charged with drunk driving, was fined $650 and was ordered to enter a drug and alcohol dependency program for 60 days in lieu of three days in jail. He was also sentenced to six months non-reporting probation and had his driver’s license suspended for six months, with work and medical privileges.

Court records say the charge was reduced because he never drove.

Fantone is currently on administrative duty at the OSHP Southington Post, meaning he will not be allowed a to wear a uniform, have a badge or a gun. He is not allowed to work in the field.

Post Commander Lt. Brian Holt said Thursday Fantone’s status has not changed. OSHP spokesperson Lt. Anne Ralston said the patrol’s administrative investigation is ongoing. Once that is completed, it will be reviewed to see if any rules were violated and if Fantone will be disciplined.

Reports say Fantone on July 8 was at the Buffalo Wild Wings in the Austintown Plaza on Mahoning Avenue when employees noticed him sleeping with his head on the bar. The manager told police they had served him two beers and offered Fantone something to eat.

He ate some of the food, then vomited in his beer, reports say. The manager asked Fantone to leave and called police after employees found him slumped over in his car. Officers noted Fantone’s car was running and he had rolled onto his stomach on the center console with head and arms on the edge of the back seat.

After several unsuccessful attempts at waking Fantone, he awoke, seemed confused and had slurred speech, reports say.

Officers reported he woke up and said, “I’m a trooper. Leave me alone.” Reports say he argued that he wasn’t drinking, just sleeping and attempted to answer a cell phone call while talking with police.

Reports say officers asked Fantone to exit his car. Fantone refused to take field sobriety tests and told officers to arrest him, reports say.

He also refused to give a breathalyzer test. Officers described Fantone in their report as “loud, sarcastic and verbally confrontational.”

Reports say Fatnone reminded officers several times he was a trooper and said “I know I’m being a (expletive).”

Police gave Fantone a courtesy ride home when he was unable to find someone to drive him home, reports say.

Fantone was reinstated as a trooper Dec. 15, 2011 after an arbiter overturned his firing from the OSP Canfield post and reassigned to the Southington post.

The arbiter found Fantone had a reaction from taking prescribed anti-depressant medication coupled with drinking at the game. He was accused of belligerence toward security officers and damaging a holding cell at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Jan. 2, 2011 during a Browns-Steelers game.

Fantone was charged in Cleveland Municipal Court with felony vandalism and subsequently fired Feb. 28 for “conduct unbecoming an officer.”

Fantone later was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, pay $600 restitution for the holding cell damage and enter a first-offender pre-trial diversion program that allowed him to have his criminal record expunged and sealed while avoiding a felony conviction.

The firing was converted to a 90-day unpaid suspension, with Fantone receiving back pay for the seven months he was unemployed following the three-month suspension, and his seniority and benefits were restored.

Fantone and another trooper planned to go to the game, with the other trooper the designated driver. Fantone testified at his reinstatement hearing that he would be embarrassed if his co-worker found out he was taking an antidepressant, but would get headaches if he failed to take a dose. Fantone said he took the prescribed 20-milligram dose at about 8:30 a.m. He had been weaning himself off the medication, the filing states.

At the game, he drank about five beers and “a swig or two of Jack Daniels,” the filing states.

Inside Browns Stadium, saw two deputies and believed one was his brother-in-law, a Mahoning County sheriff’s deputy who was working security. Fantone “threw a peanut or two at the officer he thought was his brother-in-law,” Ruben wrote. “It was not his brother-in-law.”

The two deputies approached Fantone, who became verbally belligerent and increasingly agitated, the brief said. Fantone was taken to the holding cell in the basement of Browns Stadium, reserved for fans who get too drunk and an obnoxious during games.

Fantone’s brother-in-law met him near the elevator but Fantone was unable to recognize him and began verbally abusing him as well, the filing says.

Once inside the cell, Fantone told officers he needed to use the restroom then kicked the holding cell door open. Fantone was then arrested on the vandalism charge for causing more than $500 damage to the cell door.

Fantone was named Trooper of the Year in 2008 and a winner of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Award.

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