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Case against Sergiy Matirniy ends in plea agreement

February 18, 2012
­By DEANNE JOHNSON - Staff Writer , Morning Journal News

LISBON - Sergiy Matirniy, the man who caused authorities to stop traffic on state Route 11 for several hours on July 4, 2010 while they searched his vehicle, was fined $400, had his driver's license suspended for six months and was given credit for 18 days already served in the county jail.

Matirniy pleaded no contest Friday in Columbiana County Municipal Court to all but one of the charges against him - the carrying a concealed weapon charge, which was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. The charges he pleaded no contest to were speeding, improper handling of a firearm, obstructing official business and drug paraphernalia.

Matirniy said his decision to enter a plea deal was not because he believed he was guilty, but because of other constaints on his time.

"I am upset about this," he told Judge Mark Frost, "But me and my friend have just opened a business, and I can't be unavailable."

Frost asked Matirniy about comments made to the press in Florida during his arrest there. Matirniy had reportedly said that those people in Ohio did not know what they were dealing with.

Matirniy said what happened was a tense moment for everyone and he exercised his rights during the stop. Matirniy's attorney Pete Horvath added, Matirniy meant the police may not have expected someone to question their authority.

Assistant Prosecutor Don Humphrey said in his opinion the sentence agreed to by the two sides was entirely in line with what someone else facing similar charges would have faced. He also justified the state Highway Patrol's reponse, which included having the vehicle checked for bombs.

"The state patrol's actions were entirely justified," Humphrey said. "The actions of the defendant could not have been more suspicious."

Frost agreed Matirniy's actions that day were suspicious, but also stated he knows Matirniy is somewhat knowledgable about his rights.

"They didn't know what was in your mind, Mr. Matirniy," Frost said.

During the stop by Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Gorby, who allegedly pulled over Matirniy for driving 73 mph in a 55 mph construction zone, Matirniy reportedly refused to give his name, his license or his registration to authorities, stating it was against his constitutional rights. After he was removed from the vehicle he locked it. He also had a large amount of electronic gear and cameras inside the vehicle.

Although Matirniy and his attorney agreed to the destruction of some of the items confiscated, Matirniy maintains he would like his navigational equipment returned. A hearing has been set for Feb. 28 to address whether the items will be released.

After the hearing Matirniy said he had decided to just get out of the charges because he is a professional engineer and has this new business in tire recycling in Cleveland. He needed to be there to handle things and could not continue with fighting the charges any longer. However, Matirniy said he felt important legal aspects of constitutional rights were being denied.

During the stop, Matirniy said he had pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which is the right protecting citizens from being forced to incriminate themselves. He also said his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by illegal search and seizure.

"I just got fried and framed," Matirniy said, admitting "at the moment it looked like a big deal."

However, Matirniy said it was only a BB gun and it was in the trunk. He explained the container of gasoline he had in the vehicle was only because he was on the way to Florida and may have needed to fill up.

Matirniy, who was born Ukrainian, reportedly has become a legal U.S. citizen and even served in the military.

"I couldn't believe the responses I got from the supporters and non-supporters," Matirniy said, adding some people said some nasty things urging him to return to where he came from.

Although Matirniy's traffic stop in Columbiana County was in 2010, he soon found himself dealing with legal problems in Florida stemming from trying to buy pool chemicals, which led authorities there to discover what they believed at the time could be the beginning of a methamphetamine laboratory behind his home in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

He was charged with resisting arrest without violence from an incident at a pool chemical supply store. Matirniy was also charged with trafficking in amphetamines - 14 grams or more, a felony in Florida.

In the end, Matirniy pleaded to a lesser charge of possession of amphetamines. He received a year probation with a year of jail, but received credit for the 294 days he had already served at that time in Florida.

He also applied for the return of some of his belongings seized from the Florida home.



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