Maserati driver found guilty of dragging traffic police officer for 124m

Maserati driver found guilty of dragging traffic police officer for 124m

lee cheng yan
Lee Cheng Yan, 35, outside the State Courts on Thursday (Oct 3). (Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: A man who denied being the driver of a Maserati that dragged a traffic police officer in an escape bid was found guilty on Wednesday (Dec 4).

Lee Cheng Yan, 35, was convicted after a trial of 10 charges including voluntarily causing grievous hurt to a public servant, failing to stop after an accident and obstructing justice.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong found him guilty of all charges, saying the prosecution had established them beyond reasonable doubt.

Lee had driven his S$175,000 Maserati to pick up a laptop from a man at Bedok Reservoir Road on Nov 17, 2017. After this, a passing police officer saw him driving without his seat belt on and signalled to him to stop.

Lee, who was banned from driving at the time, refused to do so, and later sped away with the officer hanging from his driver's door. He dragged the officer for 124m at a speed of 79kmh to 84kmh.

The officer fell off and was given more than 20 days' medical leave for injuries to his knee, neck and back and later medically downgraded by the Home Team's medical board.

After he was charged, Lee denied being the driver of the Maserati, testifying to the court that it was a person named Kelvin who drove the vehicle.

He said Kelvin was about his build and wearing a similar white T-shirt on that day, and claimed that he had gone for dinner at the time of the incident.

ONLY ONE MAN IDENTIFIED LEE: DEFENCE

Lee's defence lawyer Balamurugan Selvarajan had urged the judge to acquit his client of all charges, saying that the prosecution had failed to prove that Lee intended to cause grievous hurt or knew that reversing the vehicle or swerving it would cause grievous hurt to the officer.

He said the injuries occurred when the officer fell off the vehicle and not before this, and said only one witness was able to identify Lee as the driver.

"Even so, the quality of it is impinged on the basis that it was a fleeting glance made through a heavily tinted window," said Mr Balamurugan.

He said there was no evidence that this witness was able to positively identify Lee in an identification parade, and identified him in court only because he had seen photos of Lee in the news and on social media the day after the incident. 

Mr Balamurugan also said that there was no direct evidence that Lee was the driver of the Maserati that night.

GOLDEN THREAD OF EVIDENCE: PROSECUTOR

Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh disagreed, saying the evidence was "abundant". He said the victim had been caught in the driver's side window and was next to the driver.

"It's inconceivable that he did not know that the victim was dragged, but he persisted in driving off," he said. "The driver would at the very least be likely to know that he would be causing grievous hurt by dragging the victim along."

Mr Koh added that Lee had acknowledged on the stand that the police officer would have been seriously hurt if dragged like that, and that he would fall at some time and likely get hurt if he did.

The prosecutor reiterated a chronology of events that he said had a "golden thread of evidence" running through them, starting from the man who saw and passed the laptop to Lee and knew that he was the driver and the only one in the Maserati.

Police camera footage shows Lee leaving his home in a white shirt, and the laptop was later found in his Maserati when the police forced entry into the vehicle a day after.

WHERE IS KELVIN?

"The defence is conspicuously silent on the fact that the accused has, to date, failed to produce this Kelvin, even though Kelvin is key to the defence's case," said the prosecutor. 

"(Lee) said Kelvin was the driver, Kelvin caused grievous hurt, Kelvin drove dangerously. Kelvin is a cornerstone to the defence's case," said Mr Koh.

"Yet all they can muster ... is that the accused was not asked by the prosecution and the police for more details about Kelvin," he said.

The defence had said Lee giving a description of Kelvin that matched his own showed his honesty, but Mr Koh said this is hollow.

"It's not because he is honest - far from it, but because it is a lie that the offences were not committed by him but by someone who looks like him," he said. "He should not be allowed to get away with this deception."

After Lee was convicted, the prosecution asked for at least a 50 per cent increase in his current bail of S$60,000.

The defence argued that the bail was sufficient and that Lee has consistently turned up for all court hearings, but the prosecutor said Lee's actions showed that he was repeatedly trying to evade justice and that he has more reason to abscond now that he has been convicted.

"The risk is high - he drove dangerously, tried to discard his shirt, these are repeated signs of a person who is willing to want to do anything to evade the consequences of his actions," said Mr Koh.

The judge increased bail by S$10,000 to S$70,000 and adjourned mitigation and sentencing to Jan 14. 

The penalties for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter a public servant from his duty are a maximum jail term of 15 years and a fine or caning.

Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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