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Updated: Epsom attorney Soltani found guilty on misdemeanors, not felony
Soltani maintains he is the victim of a police officer's vengence after Soltani complained about the officer's behavior in retrieving a runaway from the Soltani home the previous night.
"You have a duty to prevent injustice with your conscience," said Soltani.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Valentine said Soltani got himself into trouble by inserting himself into a police chase that started when Officer James Kear stopped a vehicle for a headlight out and the vehicle took off.
The felony reckless conduct charge alleges that at one point Soltani was driving south in the northbound lane, parallel to the Mercedes, posing a danger to oncoming traffic.
The Epsom officer was told to break off the chase just past the Pembroke line and when Soltani doubled back and pulled up next to Officer Kear, who was stopped at North Pembroke Road by Montminy's store, Kear told Soltani he was under arrest.
Soltani was a part-time police officer many years ago and Valentine said: "He wants to be part of law enforcement still."
Indeed, during hours of testimony Tuesday, Soltani described his participation in the chase using police phrases: "I stationed myself" "I have the advantage of an unmarked car" ... "after that my cover was blown."
He also complained about Kear's behavior during the initial vehicle stop on Route 4 in Epsom, including criticizing Kear's body position when standing next to the vehicle, saying: "You are supposed to stand at an angle."
During his testimony about his career in the Coast Guard, as a part-time police officer, as a college and law school student, as a state representative and Epsom town counsel, describing most in extreme detail, he repeatedly stressed the importance of doing things "by the book."
His lengthy testimony showed a range of emotion, including tears and laughter. After one extended response to a question from attorney Jason Dennis, who is assisting Soltani, Judge Richard McNamara cautioned Soltani to stop the narratives and answer questions.
Soltani talked in detail about his Coast Guard training and experience, saying it shaped his approach to life, that he learned to put other people's lives ahead of his own.
But Valentine said Soltani wasn't doing that the night of the chase. Instead, Soltani was putting other lives at risk by his behavior in the police pursuit.
And while Soltani said he was a man who tried to do what's right and should not be subjected to persecution with an unjust law or unjust application of a law, Valentine said Officer Kear's "decisions were based on the defendant's conduct."
Soltani is also charge with misdemeanor disobeying a police officer.
In giving the jurors instructions, McNamara told them, "It's up to you to decide the facts in this case," telling them not to let sympathy affect their decision.
The jurors will return to court this morning, when a foreman will be selected and deliberations will begin.
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