On Wednesday, a 48-year-old Brookings woman accused of felony fleeing a police officer on her mobility scooter was found guilty in a jury trial in Curry County Circuit Court.
Jennifer Gayman’s conviction stems from a Nov. 19 incident with Brookings police in which she was cited for failure to wear a helmet, driving on the sidewalk and in a crosswalk while riding her mobility scooter. A video of the arrest and subsequent low-speed chase recently went viral on social media.
Gayman was found guilty in January in Brookings Municipal Court of “unsafe operation of a motor assisted scooter, operation of a scooter in a crosswalk and failure to wear protective headgear.” She was fined more than $250 for those offences.
Circuit Judge Cindy Beaman can choose to keep a felony or, reduce to a misdemeanor if she sees fit, according to Gayman’s criminal attorney, Rick Inokuchi.
During the trial, Inokuchi never condoned Gayman’s profanity-laced interaction with police on Nov. 19. He did, however, claim her actions could not be categorized as fleeing a police officer.
“How could she be trying to get away when she told the officer where she was going and then proceeded to do exactly that,” Inokuchi said. He went on to point out Gayman also signaled her intentions by using the turn signals on the scooter.
District Attorney Everett Dial did not see the events of Nov. 19 the same way. Dial argued just because an individual does not agree with a law does not mean a law does not apply to that person. He went on to highlight Gayman clearly knew police lights and sirens signaled a driver to stop as evidenced by her compliance during an initial stop.
The jury returned its verdict after less than an hour of deliberation.
Dial said he did not wish to comment on the proceedings further until Gayman is sentenced.
A tearful Gayman said she still plans to sue the City of Brookings and its police department for violating her Americans with Disabilities Act rights.
“I still have the suit” said Gayman.
Gayman’s lawyer for the civil suit, Jacob Johnstun, said, “There was no reason to pull her over,” citing Gayman’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights.
Gayman suffers from BEST disease which causes macular degeneration, asthma, COPD, lower back problems and peripheral neuropathy according to a California prescription. Gayman said as a result, she is losing her eyesight, rendering her unable to drive a car.
According to article 35.137 of the ADA, public entities must allow those with mobility handicaps to use wheelchairs in any areas open to public use. Article 508(2) of the ADA, notes a mobility scooter is included in the definition of a wheelchair.
Gayman will be sentenced on May 23 at 9 a.m. at the circuit court in Gold Beach.