The driver, officer Warner J. Stumpenhaus, walked away with minor injuries. The passenger, officer Serge Grinik, wasn’t so lucky. Firefighters had to extricate him from the cruiser, and he was hospitalized with a fractured pelvis, a fractured shoulder, and multiple abrasions and lacerations.
Ross wasn’t hurt — unless the slap on the wrist, which he got in court last month, counts.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office had charged Ross with two felony counts of second-degree assault for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol content was 0.185 — more than twice the legal limit. In a city that loves DUI checkpoints, a drunk driver who comes right to the cops must be a slam-dunk, right?
Ross, a commercial real-estate agent for the LANE4 Property Group, is the son of Frank Ross Jr., a prominent lawyer with the firm Polsinelli Shughart. He’s a grad of Rockhurst High School and Boston College, and his friends call him “Trip” — and some of those pals are high-profile types. In Ross’ car at the time of the crash was an assistant U.S. district attorney.
On January 10, Ross entered a guilty plea. He received a suspended imposition of sentence and was placed on three years’ probation. He can still drive, though now he must blow into an ignition interlock device to start his vehicle. (The device has a camera to make sure Ross does his own puffing.) He also was ordered to pay a $46 fine, complete a victim-impact program as well as a program for “substance abuse traffic offenders,” and serve 40 hours of community service.
Forty hours of community service? That’s way fewer than the 100 hours handed down to two Ray County farmers who cut down cottonwood trees containing two bald-eagle nests. It’s also fewer than the 50 hours that University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel agreed to complete for his DUI arrest last year. And it’s fewer than the 70 hours that Karen Christine Downs was ordered to serve for providing alcohol to several underage girls at a sleepover. (Downs also was sentenced to 30 days of shock time in jail.)
A local police officer not involved in the case says Ross’ sentence “sounds real light.” He adds: “I’d like to see the drunken-driving laws stiffened up. My conscience tells me that we ought to treat it much more seriously.”
Michael Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, says Ross’ sentence is not uncommon. He notes that several vehicular-assault cases ended in suspended imposition of sentences.
“It’s not uncommon when you’re dealing with someone who had no priors,” Mansur says. “It’s a fairly typical kind of sentence.”
A suspended imposition of sentence means that if Ross successfully completes his probation, his case will be dismissed and the felony-assault charge wiped from his record.
Mansur says Ross received no special treatment.
“I know he had people in his car that were well-known,” he says. “But that really wasn’t a factor in any way that I can determine. I don’t think they got anything special.”
Mansur says he spoke with the prosecutor in the case and was told that Stumpenhaus and Grinik and their families were fine with the outcome.
However, both officers filed civil lawsuits against Ross following the wreck.
Grinik sued Ross and the city. His lawsuit says he was “severely and permanently injured” and claims that he “suffered and will continue to suffer great physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.” Grinik, according to court documents, underwent surgery and physical therapy as a result of the collision. Grinik charges that the city was “careless, negligent, reckless and partly at fault” for not upgrading its traffic signals.
A trial was scheduled for December 19, 2011. However, Grinik filed a notice of dismissal on December 1, signaling an out-of-court settlement.
Stumpenhaus is still suing Ross. A jury trial is scheduled for September 4.
Attorneys for Stumpenhaus and Grinik did not return calls from The Pitch. Neither did Ross.