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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lorain Man Who Filmed Car Crash Gets 30 Days in Jail; Judge Says He Deserves More

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM

  • Lorain Police Department
It's front page news in Elyria this morning. Paul Pelton, the man who filmed the grisly aftermath of a July car crash involving two teens, has been sentenced to the maximum 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. 

Wednesday, Lorain Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell professed to be "dismayed" that he couldn't impose a harsher sentence. He'd already refused two attempted plea deals from Pelton's attorneys in order to ensure that Pelton received jail time.

Pelton was charged with two fourth degree misdemeanor charges, vehicle trespass and disorderly conduct (pleaded down from bribery, a first degree misdemeanor). He was arrested two days after filming the crash wreckage on the night of July 13.

Media vilified Pelton for his actions, which included the inaccurate claims that he had "repeatedly" tried to "hawk footage" to local news stations. In truth, at least one station approached Pelton (not the other way around), and Pelton only ever sought donations of children's bicycles for a charity he was trying to get off the ground in conjunction with his auto repair and detail shop in Lorain.

Later, Pelton tried to persuade the crash's surviving teen, Zachary Goodin, (who has since been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide), to testify that Pelton had permission to enter the vehicle during the filming.

Said Judge Elwell, at the sentencing Wednesday: 
"Instead of offering these two individuals some help or at least some comfort, what we have is somebody trying to profit off of it. Make a gory video, try to sell it on the Internet and then try to intimidate the other juvenile to change his story. I mean totally outrageous behavior.”

Pelton promptly removed the video from his personal Facebook page when he learned that one of the teens, Cameron Friend, had died. He maintained that he'd only ever posted it to educate young people about the dangers of reckless driving. (He lives in Lorain, where teenagers frequently jump the train tracks at perilous speeds.) 

Read Scene's in-depth investigation of the case here.  

Pelton's attorneys, Kristina Supler and Anne Walton Keller of downtown firm McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman, argued Wednesday that though their client's actions may have been insensitive — Pelton read an apology to the court — he ought to be sentenced for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty, not for the collateral damage generated by the press.

"This case received extensive media attention and, unfortunately, some of what was widely reported is inaccurate," Supler and Keller said in a joint statement provided to Scene. "We felt it was important to emphasize that Mr. Pelton was being sentenced for two fourth degree misdemeanors and nothing more. As we highlighted in court, Mr. Pelton deeply regrets his actions and wants to move forward.”

Pelton himself felt that the city of Lorain, and indeed the judge, might be "passing biased judgement" based on the public outcry, which was largely the result of skewed information. Pelton told Scene before his sentencing that he's eager to put this whole nightmare episode behind him and that if he received jail time, he would serve "efficiently and effectively, without an issue." 

Supler and Keller intend to petition the court for an early release, a petition which the judge has discretion to grant.  

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