BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jonathan Crane knows what it’s like to feel like a free man and a convicted one. But both nearly happened within one week — and they both were the result of the same case.
In 2014, Crane and his girlfriend were out partying at Pearl Nightclub in Rochester. Crane was the designated driver. He said his girlfriend was intoxicated. On their way home — Niagara Falls, at the time — blue and red lights flashed Crane’s rearview mirror.
“Didn’t really realize I was speeding and I got pulled over,” he said. “I apologized for speeding. He asked me to step out of the vehicle.”
The trooper assumed Crane was drunk, said he failed field sobriety tests. He was subsequently slapped with DWI and other charges.
Crane hired a lawyer, turned down a plea offer from the city court prosecutor and prepared to fight.
“I wasn’t willing to take a plea like that considering I knew I was innocent and I was willing to fight with whatever means I had to in order to get the verdict that I deserved,” Crane said.
His case was set for a bench trial, which is presided over by a judge and not a jury. City Court Judge Maija Dixon said state police lacked sufficient evidence for a conviction, and the case was tossed out.
“She said that given the overwhelming evidence that I was not guilty, she was dismissing all charges,” he said.
But in a shocking — and illegal — move, the judge tried to reverse her own decision. And ordered Crane back to court.
“What the heck is going on? This is not justice,” Crane said. “This is not fair. I don’t think anybody should have to go through this type of ordeal. You can’t do this. This is against the law. Once you render a verdict on the record, you’re not allowed to reverse yourself.”
Ultimately, the law won — and so did Crane. He was finally exonerated last week.
“No matter who you are, you have to follow the law,” he said. “And in the end, no matter if you’re a little guy like me, or a big guy like the judge, you have to follow the law. And no matter what it says, because it’s right, and that’s justice. And what was happening to me was not fair and it was not justice at all.”