ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Martins Ferry Police Chief Barry Carpenter repeatedly told a special agent investigating the theft case against him involving the surrogate mother for a Hollywood couple that he thought "it was all a joke."
In court this morning, Carpenter, who has been suspended from the police force while the case is heard in a Belmont County courtroom, repeatedly said in a taped conversation with Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation Special Agent Mark Rohrer that he did not do anything wrong.
Carpenter said that he was only joking with the celebrity photographers who came to the area seeking photographs and other information about surrogate mother Michelle Ross, the local woman who served as surrogate mother for the twin daughters of Hollywood actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker,
The tapes were played as part of the prosecution's case against Carpenter who is facing burglary, theft in office and other related felony charges. In those taped conversations, Carpenter said many people in the police department and the community knew where Ross lived in Martins Ferry and that there were items in the house for which the tabloid photographers were willing to pay.
Carpenter reportedly asked to take a lie detector test during those recorded conversation.
Jurors were behind closed doors Tuesday when Judge John M. Solovan ruled that Carpenter's recorded comments regarding the lie detector test will not be heard. He said polygraph evidence is not permissible in court.
Defense attorney Dennis McNamara cited a prior decision by an Ohio judge and argued that if the prosecution can use a portion of a recording to forward its case, the defendant should have the opportunity to present the remainder of that recording in his defense. Special Prosecutor Shawn Hervey said Tuesday that the results of Carpenter's lie detector test were inconclusive.
Carpenter said he called Belmont County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Berhalter to tell him about what the chief perceived as "an ethical issue." Carpenter again repeatedly said he did not believe he had done anything wrong.
Meanwhile, Ross was expected to testify today. Proceedings started nearly an hour later than planned this morning due to audio technical difficulties in the courtroom.
Testimony was expected to continue late into the day.
Berhalter and Rohrer were expected to testify as well.
Carpenter is accused of burglarizing Ross' Martins Ferry home and attempting to sell stolen items that identified her as the surrogate to celebrity photographers.
Bridgeport Police Chief Chad Dojack, who is on administrative leave from his position, also is accused of taking part in the alleged crime.
Rohrer testified Tuesday that BCII planned a sting operation after a pair of celebrity photographers told investigators Carpenter approached them in May in a Bridgeport parking lot and attempted to sell them items taken from the Ross home.
Rohrer said the sting operation would have involved those photographers returning to the area to ask Carpenter if he still would be willing to sell items taken from Ross. Rohrer said that sting operation did not take place because he believed Carpenter had become aware he was under investigation.
Those photographers testified Tuesday that they met with Carpenter and that he offered to sell them some of Ross' personal belongings; however, both said they never saw any of the allegedly stolen items in Carpenter's possession.