Hit-and-run suspect faces paraphernalia charge for syringe

Michael Perlstein talks to a man whose car was totaled by a man who crashed into his car after being filmed with a syringe in his hand.

NEW ORLEANS -- A man seen in cell phone video passed out behind the wheel of a car with a syringe in his hand is facing more charges.

Randall Rosenberg knows the hard facts about drug addiction. He saw his mom die of a heroin overdose when he was 13 years old. So his first impulse was sympathy when he saw Colin Mathison staggering away after crashing into three parked cars, including his.

But then he saw the facts uncovered by WWL-TV.

MORE: Hit-and-run driver found passed out with syringe, but released with traffic tickets

Despite Mathison’s path of destruction – and being caught on video with a syringe in his hand – the 27-year-old was released from jail within hours of his arrest on Sept. 1. Booking records show he was cited for four traffic violations, including misdemeanor hit-and-run, but there was an additional charge not reflected in the arrest records: a municipal summons for possession of drug paraphernalia.

The paraphernalia count can be prosecuted as either a state or municipal charge, and it is left up to the discretion of police officers on how to book the suspect. There has been a recent push in New Orleans to lock up fewer drug offenders, but Rosenberg questions if the man who destroyed three cars and tried to run from police warrants that kind of leniency. 

“I was sympathetic at first,” Rosenberg said. “But then I heard he got out so fast. I'm like, I'm all for people getting rehab for their problems. But when you just have people who can pull you out, it's not really doing anything for the problem.”

Rosenberg said Mathison's father was at the scene pleading for his son not to be taken into custody. Police records show that officers transported Mathison to University Medical Center before booking him on the traffic and municipal charges.

“He's getting arrested,” Rosenberg said, “but he also mentioned that the parents tried to put him in directly in rehab in lieu of going to prison. I was like, ‘What's going on?’”

One state charge that wasn't lodged was flight from an officer. The police report said officers captured Mathison as he was scaling a fence trying to flee.

“The officer ordered the subject, later identified as Colin Mathison, down from the fence,” the police report states. “The subject complied. The officer asked the subject what he was doing climbing the fence and the subject replied, ‘Being an idiot.’”

Rosenberg said Mathison's father, Slidell Chief Administrative Officer Tim Mathison, arrived at the scene and gave his insurance information to the people whose cars were destroyed. But that hasn't helped this school dance instructor find new wheels to get to work.

“I help gets kids back and forth to our dance programs, so it’s affecting kids getting to our programs,” he said. “I haven't really been able to go anywhere. So I'm losing money and it’s hurting kids in the community.”

Mathison’s attorney, Bryan Haggerty, entered a not guilty plea in Municipal Court on Wednesday and set a status hearing in December for his client. He acknowledged that Mathison and his family have challenges ahead.

“The family won't run from their responsibilities,” They are also taking every step necessary to help this young man and to make sure he gets the proper treatment.”

Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan also issued a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mathison family as they deal with a personal family matter involving their son.”

The accident and arrest took place about a mile from where police on Monday found the body of Justin Pohlmann, son of St. Bernard Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. Like Mathison, he was found slumped over in a parked car.

Police said Pohlmann was found in the 2500 block of Piety Street, an area surrounded by empty lots and abandoned houses.

Officers found a syringe in Pohlmann’s possession, and EMS pronounced the him dead at the scene. The Orleans Parish Coroner will investigate and determine the cause of death.

Justin Pohlmann, 31, had an ongoing addiction problem, acknowledged by his father, when he was arrested for burglary in 2013 in St. Bernard Parish. Sheriff Pohlmann has not made any public statements since his son’s death.

(© 2016 WWL)


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