BLOOMINGTON — A Pontiac police officer denied Wednesday that he lied to state police about an off-duty motorcycle accident.
Daron Bagnell is charged with felony obstruction of justice in the May 1, 2013, accident involving him and two cyclists who were following him.
In a bench trial before Judge Casey Costigan, Bagnell said he drank about six beers at three bars with the other riders before the crash on U.S. 24 east of Chenoa.
The 17-year veteran of the Pontiac agency said a glimpse of what he thought was a deer caused him concern on the dark road. Then he was aware of sparks and the sounds of skidding tires.
"I heard a crash behind me," said Bagnell.
His friend Tim Dunn had left the roadway on his motorcycle and suffered a laceration to his head, according to Bagnell.
The two men and a third rider, Michael J. Willis, went on to Chenoa, leaving Dunn's damaged motorcycle behind. Willis went home and Bagnell and Dunn went into the Brown Jug restaurant where they ordered a beer, said the officer.
A state police investigation turned up evidence that that the men allegedly lied about the deer to avoid possible drunken-driving charges. State investigators also reported difficulties in obtaining further statements from the three men.
Costigan took the case under advisement on Wednesday; a written ruling is expected next week.
Dunn, who is a former Clinton officer, testified Wednesday that he lacks any memory of the accident and the hours afterward.
An audio recording played in court by defense lawyer Kerry Luckman of conversations police had with Dunn did not refresh his memory.
In response to questions from Assistant State's Attorney Ashley Scarborough, Dunn admitted that his statement that he hit a deer could not be verified, given his memory lapse.
Dunn testified that he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in October to avoid potential penalties of a conviction. Such consequences could have interfered with his court supervision for a previous drunken-driving conviction, he said.
Bagnell has been on administrative duty since August.