FARMINGTON, Minn. -- Embattled Farmington City Council member Jason Bartholomay said he is ready to put legal troubles behind him after pleading guilty to two of the lesser charges stemming after he was stopped last year in Apple Valley and accused of using fake police lights to pull over vehicles.
Christine Cassellius, assistant attorney for the city of Apple Valley, said Bartholomay pleaded guilty to two counts of using prohibited lights, one involving red and colored lights and the other involving blue lights. Both are petty misdemeanors and he paid $250 in fines and prosecution costs.
Bartholomay, who is facing calls for his resignation, said he didn’t know the lights, which he bought on Amazon, were illegal when he installed them.
Cassellius said his plea deal also called for a misdemeanor charge of impersonating a police officer to be continued for one year and dropped if Bartholomay does not violate the terms of his probation.
“None of us know all the laws that are out there,” said the council member. By ordering them off of Amazon, he said he just assumed it would be OK.
“I’m taking ownership in having them, because you’re not even supposed to have them in your vehicle,” he said.
Bartholomay was stopped last Oct. 26 by an Apple Valley police officer on Cedar Avenue after receiving reports of a driver using flashing red and blue lights to stop cars. The caller told police he was driving south on the street when he saw the lights come on behind him. He stopped, and the car behind him pulled over, but then the lights went off and it drove away.
According to an official summons, Bartholomay at first denied knowing anything about the lights. When the officer asked him to activate what appeared to be a control box in the car’s center console, though, the lights came on. Police also found a siren and PA system wired to an emitter under Bartholomay’s hood.
Bartholomay said he has video from the squad car’s dashboard camera that shows his flashing lights did not come on while he was driving. He said he may release it at a later date.
“I think it’s good for people to see what took place that night,” he said.
According to the summons, Bartholomay told police he had the lights because he was a chaplain with the Minneapolis and University of Minnesota police departments and uses the lights while responding to calls. He later denied making that claim. He does not work as a chaplain for either department.
At a December city council meeting at which residents called for his resignation, Bartholomay again maintained his innocence. He said his job as a therapist for the University of Minnesota has put him in harm’s way in the past. He said he had the lights to keep himself safe when he is parked on the side of the road responding to calls.
Calls for Bartholomay's resignation have not stopped with the conclusion of his court case. Former Farmington City Council member Lacelle Cordes started a petition at change.org calling for him to step down. As of Friday afternoon it had 74 signatures.
Bartholomay maintained his innocence from the beginning. Attorney Hillary Parsons said in November that she believed Bartholomay would be “fully exonerated.”
He said now he believes that’s what has happened.
“If they had a case, they wouldn’t have done this,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident I would have been not guilty. It’s the same result. It just saves the taxpayer the money.”