EDITOR’S NOTE (12:30 p.m. Monday) — This story has been updated July 17 after additional information about the case was verified by court and police records. 

ITHACA, N.Y. – An Ithaca woman who has driving while intoxicated charges pending against her is claiming the Tompkins County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene may have forged information related to the crash. As the case continues, a court decision has found the deputy’s testimony to be credible.

Last week, defense attorney Russel E. Maines filed court papers alleging Deputy Matthew E. Skeval made false statements and “knowingly filed a false report in a criminal investigation in June 2016.”

Jennifer Rivera, 35, of Ithaca, was charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two after an accident on June 24, 2016 that left her and her two children hospitalized. However, Rivera, her children and other witnesses maintain that she was unimpaired while driving and court documents show that a breathalyzer test was never administered to Rivera.

Court documents filed by Maines allege Skeval falsely reported that Rivera had failed a breathalyzer test to the Tompkins County Department of Social Services. According to the complaint, Skeval reported to DSS that Rivera “blew a 1.36” on a breathalyzer test. Due to the high number, the defense stated in the complaint that one of two mistakes occurred: either Skeval reported a false number or DSS wrongly recorded the information.

According to Skeval’s statement, he responded to a call just after 7 p.m. June 24 reporting that a car had crashed into a tree on Coy Glen Road in Ithaca. Upon arrival, Skeval stated that Rivera’s son, age 8, and daughter, age 13, were being treated for injuries in an ambulance. Rivera and her children were subsequently flown to Robert Packer Hospital to be treated for their injuries.

Skeval stated he had “limited interactions” with Rivera at the scene of the accident, but Skeval reported that an EMT relayed to him that the flight crew “indicated that they had detected the odor of alcohol emanating from her breath,” records state.

However, Skeval said he administered a gaze test at the hospital and a nurse took a blood test, but court documents do not show that a breathalyzer test was ever administered, records state.

The result of Rivera’s blood test at the hospital showed that Rivera’s showed a blood alcohol content level of 0.07 percent and tested positive for the presence of “tetrahydrocannabinol,” or marijuana, records provided by Tompkins County Attorney Jonathan Wood show. The standard legal limit for driving in New York is a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

Wood said after a suppression hearing in March, the court found Skeval’s testimony to be credible in a decision filed on June 23. The decision stated that based on Skeval’s investigation and later reviews of the blood test, there was reasonable cause to charge the defendant.

“There is a criminal case pending against (Rivera),” Wood said. “One of the odd things about this is that typically when the (defense) files for a subpoena, there is usually a case – this case does not exist.”

Inconsistencies come up in reports to DSS between Skeval and other witnesses, Maines alleges in the complaint. According to documents, Skeval allegedly told DSS that he administered a breathalyzer test upon Rivera which resulted in a 1.36 percent BAC level. Maines has subpoenaed for the redacted DSS records to find where the mistake was made.

Jacqueline Martinez-Williams, who had been with Rivera shortly before the accident, allegedly told Skeval that Rivera was an alcoholic. However, the DSS investigator said Martinez-Williams reported the opposite; that Rivera is responsible with alcohol. Martinez-Williams later confirmed that she had never stated Rivera was an alcoholic and added that she had never been interviewed by Skeval at the hospital.

According to the complaint filed by Maines, Skeval stated an EMT suggested that Rivera’s daughter said her mother had been using her cell phone and drinking prior to the accident. However, the 13-year-old, who had been sitting in the passenger seat, reported to DSS that the accident was a result of brake failure.

Rivera is requesting the un-redacted DSS records, which are currently redacted to exclude names, notes in the sheriff’s office case file, and Skeval’s personnel file. Because the sheriff’s office files and the DSS documents are filed within political subdivisions of the state, Rivera has filed a subpoena to acquire the records.

The complaint stated that, “(Rivera) only wishes to elaborate upon known facts.”

Rivera sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage during the crash, a head injury which causes bleeding around the brain. Symptoms of the injury include disorientation and gaze impairment, which are consistent with symptoms of drug or alcohol impairment.

The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office did not comment on any specifics of the case.

“It’s a civil suit regarding an incident which occurred a while ago,” Tompkins County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Donahue said. “The attorney’s office is taking care of it.”

The next court proceeding in regards to this matter has been scheduled for Aug. 28 in Tompkins County Court.

—–Earlier version reported July 11 —–

ITHACA, N.Y. – A Tompkins County sheriff’s deputy is facing accusations that he forged information relating to a motor vehicle accident which occurred last summer.

Last week, Ithaca attorney Russell E. Maines announced that he was filing court papers alleging Deputy Matthew E. Skeval made false statements and “knowingly filed a false report in a criminal investigation in June 2016.”

Jennifer Rivera was charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two after an accident on June 24, 2016 that left her and her two children hospitalized. However, Rivera, her children and other witnesses maintain that she was unimpaired while driving and court documents show that a breathalyzer test was never administered to Rivera.

Court documents filed by Maines allege Skeval falsely reported that Rivera had failed a breathalyzer test to the Tompkins County Department of Social Services. According to Skeval’s statement, he responded to a call just after 7 p.m. June 24 reporting that a car had crashed into a tree on Coy Glen Road in Ithaca. Upon arrival, Skeval stated that Rivera’s son, age 8, and daughter, age 13, were being treated for injuries in an ambulance. Rivera and her children were subsequently flown to Robert Packer Hospital to be treated for their injuries.

Skeval stated he had ‘limited interactions’ with Rivera at the scene of the accident, but Skeval reported that an EMT relayed to him that the flight crew “indicated that they had detected the odor of alcohol emanating from her breath,” records state.

According to the complaint, Skeval reported to DSS that Rivera “blew a 1.36” on a breathalyzer test. However, Skeval said he administered a gaze test at the hospital and a nurse took a blood test, but court documents do not show that a breathalyzer test was ever administered.

Inconsistencies come up in reports to DSS between Skeval and other witnesses.  According to documents, Skeval allegedly told DSS that he administered a breathalyzer test upon Rivera which resulted in a 1.36 percent BAC level. Jacqueline Martinez-Williams, who had been with Rivera shortly before the accident, allegedly told Skeval that Rivera was an alcoholic. However, the DSS investigator said Martinez-Williams reported the opposite; that Rivera is responsible with alcohol. Martinez-Williams later confirmed that she had never stated Rivera was an alcoholic and added that she had never been interviewed by Skeval at the hospital.

According to the court documents, Skeval stated an EMT suggested that Rivera’s daughter said her mother had been using her cell phone and drinking prior to the accident. However, the 13-year-old, who had been sitting in the passenger seat, reported to DSS that the accident was a result of brake failure.

Rivera is requesting the un-redacted DSS records, which are currently redacted to exclude names, notes in the sheriff’s office case file, and Skeval’s personnel file. Because the sheriff’s office files and the DSS documents are filed within political subdivisions of the state, Rivera has filed a subpoena to acquire the records.

“It’s a civil suit regarding an incident which occurred a while ago,” Tompkins County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Donahue said. “The attorney’s office is taking care of it.”

Rivera sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage during the crash, a head injury which causes bleeding around the brain. Symptoms of the injury include disorientation and gaze impairment, which are consistent with symptoms of drug or alcohol impairment.

“(Rivera) only wishes to elaborate upon known facts,” the complaint stated. “Matthew Skeval is a pathological liar in uniform who has no compunction about dreaming up stories about criminal defendants.”

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.