Ex-Erie officer gets up to 6 years in off-duty fatal DUI

August 6, 2018

A former Erie police officer was sentenced on Wednesday to three to six years in state prison plus three years of probation for driving drunk and causing a fatal crash when she was off duty and driving home from a bar in McKean Township in February 2017.

The officer, Cheryl A. Frey, 48, was facing a mandatory minimum of three years in state prison after a jury on June 18 found her guilty of all charges, including homicide by vehicle while DUI.

Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham, who presided at Frey’s five-day trial, sentenced Frey in the high end of the standard range of the state sentencing guidelines.

Frey’s lawyer, Andrew Sissinini, said Frey resigned from the force shortly after her conviction. Frey, who had been an Erie police officer since 2008, had been on unpaid suspension since she waived her preliminary hearing in the case a year ago.

Frey at trial was also convicted of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of DUI.

The jury found that Frey was drunk and driving northbound on Route 99 in McKean Township when her black Subaru Crosstrek crossed into the opposing lane of traffic and struck a southbound Honda Civic, killing its driver. The accident happened just north of the intersection with Old Route 99 on the early morning of Feb. 18, 2017.

Frey’s blood-alcohol content was 0.232 percent, or nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to information presented at the trial.

During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Lightner presented surveillance video footage from inside two taverns -- the St. Francis Ushers Club, on Route 99, and the Valley Inn, on Old Route 99 -- that showed Frey consumed at least 13 drinks in the five hours before the crash.

The defense agreed that Frey was drunk during the collision on the early morning of Feb. 18, 2017. Sissinini told jurors that the directions of the vehicles were reversed: that Frey was driving south and the driver of the Honda, 57-year-old Wade A. Schulze, was driving north.

Frey rejected a plea deal in the case.

She pleaded guilty a year ago to a second-degree felony count of homicide by vehicle while DUI and a misdemeanor count of DUI. Six other charges were dropped as part of her plea agreement.

Those charges were reinstated after Frey withdrew her plea at what had been scheduled to be her sentencing hearing in March. Sisinni, Frey’s lawyer, said Frey did not believe she was the “proximate cause” of the crash and that she felt Schulze, the victim, who had a BAC of 0.11 percent, played a significant role.

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