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Published: Saturday, 10/29/2005

Appeals court backs judge in dismissed case

Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday ruled in favor of a judge who threw out the case against a Texas motorist who was stopped on the Ohio Turnpike with a large amount cash.

The appellate court upheld the decision of Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Ruth Ann Franks in dismissing money laundering and possession of criminal tools charges against Filemon Loza-Gonzalez, whose sport utility vehicle was stopped Feb. 20, 2004.

Mr. Loza-Gonzalez was stopped in a white Ford Explorer on the turnpike by Ohio Highway Patrol troopers for following a tractor-trailer too closely.

Trooper Alejo Romero testified that he took note of the vehicle because the patrol recently had seized six white SUVs in drug-related investigations.

In reviewing the patrol's video, Judge Franks concluded that the distance between the vehicles was not unreasonable and unjustifiable for the traffic stop.

Judge Arlene Singer, who wrote the appellate decision, agreed with the lower court's interpretation of the video that the SUV was several car lengths behind the truck - not 1 1/2 as the trooper testified - and the trooper lacked a reasonable suspicion for stopping the vehicle.

Judge Singer was joined in the decision by Judges William Skow and Dennis Parrish.

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