The Columbus Dispatch


Saturday, April 22, 2000
NEWS   01B

By Connie A. Higgins
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Illustration: Photo

Andrew Pierce said he learned as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout to respect the law.

Pierce, 18, said yesterday that he upheld his part of the pledge. But he doesn't think Columbus Police Officer Frank Nichols Jr. merited that respect when the off-duty officer hit Pierce's car on W. Broad Street and then fled.

"He hasn't even called to see if I was OK,'' Pierce said. "Some officers think they're above the law, and he's one of them.''

Nichols, 35, pleaded guilty yesterday in Franklin County Municipal Court to drunken driving, a first-degree misdemeanor. Charges of failure to yield and leaving the scene of an accident were dropped.

Judge H. William Pollitt Jr. ordered him to serve three days in a rehabilitation center, pay Pierce $480 in restitution and surrender his license for 180 days.

At the same hearing, a stalking charge against Nichols was reduced to disorderly conduct. He agreed to forfeit a $150 bond.

Nichols also was ordered to stay away from Officer Lisa Perry, whom he was accused of stalking last fall through letters he wrote to her.

Both officers had worked at the precinct in the Ohio State University District. Perry attended the hearing but declined comment.

"We just wanted to take care of it in one shot,'' City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh said. "It makes more sense to make one court appearance instead of two or three.''

Nichols' attorneys, Bill Meeks and Sam Shamansky, said Nichols is a good officer who has been honored for heroic action. Nichols and two other officers were recognized last year for helping evacuate residents from an apartment building fire in 1998.

"Despite his personal problems, he's a good police officer who has served this community well for five- plus years,'' Meeks said. "He's happy the cases have been resolved. He just wants to move on with his life.''

Nichols, who has been reassigned to desk duty since the stalking allegation was made, can remain a police officer.

However, now that the criminal cases against him have been resolved, he faces an internal-affairs investigation, said Sgt. Earl Smith, a police spokesman.

Nichols could be disciplined, including being fired.

In the drunken-driving case, Columbus police said Nichols was eastbound on W. Broad Street about 3:45 p.m. Feb. 23 in a pickup truck, when he tried to turn left onto Glenwood Avenue and struck Pierce's 1979 Mercury. Nichols left but was later caught in an alley behind Glenwood, officers said.

Nichols had been drinking, and his ability to drive was impaired, police said. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test to determine his blood-alcohol content, officials said.

Pierce, a Hilltop resident and a senior at Northeast Career Center, attended Nichols' hearing yesterday with his mother, Shilah Pierce.

Mrs. Pierce said she was pleased. She said the restitution will allow her son to get his car repaired. He had been depending on his older brother to drive him to his part-time job at Sam's Club, she said.

Doral Chenoweth III / Dispatch
Frank Nichols Jr., left, and his attorney Bill Meeks discuss Nichols' sentence. The Columbus police officer pleaded guilty yesterday to misdemeanors in two cases.

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