'Little People, Big World' star Matthew Roloff found not guilty of DUI
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/11/2008
Little People, Big World patriarch Matt Roloff's drunk-driving trial has come to an end, but not before it took a strange turn due to apparent jury misconduct.
Washington County Circuit Judge Donald R. Letourneau found Roloff not guilty of drunken driving stemming from his June 19 arrest, The Oregonianreported Thursday.
"I'm glad it's over," Roloff told The Oregonian as he left the courthouse. "I'm just anxious to get back to spend time with the family."
Prior to handing down the verdict, Letourneau said the trial's six-man misdemeanor jury disobeyed his order to not seek out additional information on the case. While Roloff could have sought a mistrial due to the jury's misconduct, his defense attorney Robert Thuemmel instead asked the jury be dismissed and Letourneau hand down the verdict, The Oregonian reported.
"In my mind, it was like somebody threw a stick of dynamite into the courtroom," Thuemmel told The Oregonian when asked about the jurors checking the Internet to "go beyond the evidence" presented in Roloff's trial.
The 46-year-old pleaded not guilty in July to a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants stemming from the aforementioned arrest that began when a deputy followed his vehicle leaving a bar and subsequently stopped Roloff for failing to drive within his designated lane. Roloff was reportedly driving a 2005 Chevrolet van through an unincorporated area of Washington County, OR at the time of the his 11:52PM traffic stop.
"Mr. Roloff allegedly failed the field sobriety test and was arrested for DUII," the police report from Roloff's arrest states. "Mr. Roloff was transported to the Washington County Jail where he was cited for DUII, refusing the breath test, and failure to drive within the lane."
When Roloff testified on Wednesday about the night he was arrested, he claimed to have had one beer at home before traveling to Rock Creek Cafe & Pub -- but only to drop off a friend in the parking lot, according to The Oregonian.
Roloff said during testimony he was tired at the time of the arrest due to a cross-country RV trip his family took and had difficulty driving his wife Amy's van because her pedal extensions fit differently than his.
While he was found not guilty of drunker driving, Letourneau did find Roloff guilty of refusing to take a breath test and not staying in his lane of travel -- fining him $742 for the violations and $103 in court fees, according to The Oregonian.
Before Roloff's trial began, The Oregonian reported that Letourneau "cautioned" the jury each night to not read or watch media coverage of the trial -- which included local television and radio stations, area newspapers as well as TLC and truTV coverage -- and to also not look-up any legal definitions on their own.
After the jury endured two days of testimony and deliberated three hours on Wednesday and another half-hour on Thursday, The Oregonian reported its members sent Letourneau a note that two of them had disobeyed the judge and looked up the definitions of "implied consent" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" via the Internet. In addition, one of the jurors also checked the accuracy of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which The Oregonian reported deputies testified Roloff failed twice on the night of his arrest.
"We came in this morning and we discovered things with this jury had gone seriously off the tracks," Theummel told The Oregonian. "This created an unworkable situation for us because it brought things into the case that we didn't know how to deal with and we didn't know how to confront."
While Letourneau could have found the jurors in contempt of court and fined or jailed them, according to The Oregonian, he instead decided to make an example of them to let the community know how crucial it is "to follow the rule of law."
In addition, Letourneau added the Oregon Supreme Court has found the horizontal gaze nystagmus test to be only 77% accurate, leading to the acquittal.
"That is not beyond a reasonable doubt," said Letourneau, according to The Oregonian.
Due to a previous drunken-driving diversion program that records show Roloff agreed to enter and completed in 2003 -- The Oregonian reported the state's "implied consent" law applied to Roloff following his June arrest -- leading his driver's license to be suspended for three years because he refused to take a breath test.
Despite being found not guilty of drunken driving, The Oregonian reported Roloff is still unable to receive his license any sooner.
Little People, Big World first premiered on TLC in March 2006 and has since aired two additional installments. The docu-reality series follows Matthew and his wife Amy -- both of whom have dwarfism along with their son Zach -- in their daily lives. The Roloff's other three children, Jeremy, Molly and Jacob, also appear in the show. The family resides on a 34-acre farm in Helvetia, OR.