Connecticut Driver Contends Alleged Cellphone Was McDonalds Hash Brown

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
connecticut driver contends alleged cellphone was mcdonalds hash brown

(One of the above items is not like the other…)

Sometimes the most innocent actions can get you in trouble with the law, like the Maryland mother accused of using opiates because she ate a poppy seed bagel the morning she gave birth. A Connecticut man is challenging his conviction on a charge of distracted driving, claiming he was eating a McDonalds hash brown, not talking on his cellphone. No, this isn’t anything like Dan White’s supposed Twinkie Defense — the guy sounds like he has a legitimate case.

On April 11, 2018, Jason Stiber was pulled over in Westport. Westport PD Corporal Shawn Wong alleged that Stiber was talking on his cellphone while driving. Wong later told a magistrate that Stiber was holding a phone near his face and that his lips were moving. Stiber said the officer mistook his food for a phone. The magistrate apparently believed that Wong was right (sorry, I had to), and convicted Stiber of distracted driving, fining him $300.

Stiber represented himself at that proceeding, but Connecticut law provides for appeals of Magistrates’ rulings in front of an actual trial judge — and for that trial, Mr. Stiber engaged John Thygerson Esq., to plead his case. NBC News reports that fighting the case has already cost Stiber $1,000.

Last Friday, Stiber and Thygerson were in Judge Maureen Dennis’ court arguing their case. Thygerson told NBC following the trial, “I have done nothing but criminal defense for 21 years and I have a very sensitive nose for lying clients. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that I firmly believe my client 100 percent.”

Cpl. Wong repeated his testimony, saying that he is sure Stiber was speaking into a phone, and not eating. “The cop says he saw my client’s lips moving — my client’s lips were moving because he was chewing on his hash brown,” Thygerson said.

The defense wasn’t just asking the judge to believe that he was munching down on breakfast; they say they have phone records that indicate Stiber wasn’t on the phone at the time, along with actual physical evidence — a receipt from McDonalds for a caramel frappe and a hash brown bought that very morning. Stiber’s car is also equipped with Bluetooth and has hands-free cellphone operation. Even if he was talking on the phone when the officer spotted him, Thygerson pointed out to the judge, there was no need for Stiber to handle his phone.

Thygerson seems to have represented his client vigorously, but I wonder if he knows about how much data a modern car retains that could possibly have been used for the defense. The infotainment system on my Honda certainly keeps track of calls I’ve made or taken in the car, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a digital record of whether or not the hands-free tech was used for those calls.

Either way, Stiber sounds like he has a case. I’m sure some people will think his actions are foolish, spending a thousand bucks to overturn a $300 fine. To me he sounds like a man of principle. Sure, eating behind the wheel can probably be as distracting as talking on the phone, but that’s not against the law. Can’t a man enjoy his breakfast in peace? “He’s fighting this because he didn’t do anything wrong,” attorney Thygerson said.

Judge Dennis is expected to rule in this matter by April 5.

[Image source: McDonald’s, LG]

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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Feb 28, 2019

    "Here's your problem": HASH BROWNS Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*), Salt, Corn Flour, Dehydrated Potato, Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Extractives of Black Pepper. *Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients Contains: WHEAT, MILK. Cooked in the same fryer that we use for Donut Sticks which contain a wheat and milk allergen.

  • Pete Skimmel Pete Skimmel on Feb 28, 2019

    I see a market for phone cases shaped like Big Macs. There is always someone ready to fill a need in a marketplace.

  • Jeff S Still a nice car and I remember these very well especially in this shade of green. The headlights were vacuum controlled. I always liked the 67 thru 72 LTDs after that I found them bloated. Had a friend in college with a 2 door 71 LTD which I drove a couple of times it was a nice car.
  • John H Last week after 83 days, dealership said mine needs new engine now. They found metal in oil. Potential 8 to 9 month wait.
  • Dukeisduke An aunt and uncle of mine traded their '70 T-Bird (Beakbird) for a brand-new dark metallic green '75 LTD two-door, fully loaded. My uncle hated seat belts, so the first time I saw the car (it was so new that the '75 models had just landed at the dealerships) he proudly showed me how he'd pulled the front seat belts all the way out of their retractors, and cut the webbing with a razor blade(!).Just a year later, they traded it in for a new '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (they had owned a couple of Imperials in the '60s), and I imagine the Cadillac dealer took a chunk out to the trade-in, to get the front seat belts replaced.
  • CaddyDaddy Lease fodder that in 6 years will be on the 3rd owner in a poverty bound aspirational individual's backyard in a sub par neighborhood sinking into the dirt. The lending bank will not even want to repossess and take possession of this boat anchor of a toxic waste dump. This proves that EVs are not even close to being ready for prime time (let's not even talk about electrical infrastructure). EVs only exist in wildly expensive virtue signaling status-mobiles. FAIL! I know this is a Hybrid, but it's a Merc., so it will quickly die after the warranty. Show me a practical EV for the masses and I'll listen. At this time, Hybrids are about the way to go for most needing basic transportation.
  • Jeanbaptiste The bubble free dash on the R32!
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