Appeal expected for verdict in traffic fatality
MOUNT CARMEL - A man found guilty of two summary violations Tuesday morning in connection with a fatality last year plans to appeal the verdict and claims serious head injuries, not a snowstorm, prevented him from attending his trial.
Despite not being in attendance, Christopher Long, 49, of 4684 Upper Road, East Cameron Township, was found guilty of careless driving and failure to drive in a single lane in connection with a July 14 accident on Route 54 in Rush Township that claimed the life of 27-year-old Elysburg firefighter Brian Stanley. Long's trial was held before Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones.
Long, who pleaded guilty Nov. 17 to a seat belt violation and a registration of certificate and title violation, was ordered to pay $855 in fines and costs on the four summary offenses.
During an interview with The News-Item Wednesday, Long said he plans to appeal Jones' guilty verdict to the Court of Common Pleas. He said a traumatic head injury stopped him from appearing for his summary trial Tuesday.
"I'm not trying to avoid anything," Long said. "I just got released from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville Jan. 15 and was told by my doctor to avoid stressful situations. The doctor told me I wasn't competent to stand trial because of my head injuries. That's why I didn't appear, not because there was a snowstorm."
Long said the hearing was initially scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 17, but was continued at his request due to his ongoing medical problems he has experienced since the accident. He took offense to Jones' previous statement that the hearing had been continued multiple times.
He said a family member contacted the district attorney's office and Jones' office Tuesday in an attempt to postpone the summary trial, but a continuance wasn't granted. Long said the last call made by the family member to Jones' office was at 10:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the summary trial. But he said the same family member also attempted to have the summary trial continued by calling Jones' office Jan. 17.
Long and his son, Elijah, 13, suffered major injuries in the crash and still experience serious effects that have required further medical attention.
In addition to the traumatic brain injury, Long said he suffered an injury to his lungs and two broken legs. He praised his son for coming to his father's aid at the crash despite his own serious injuries.
On Tuesday, Jones said he denied the continuance and allowed the hearing to proceed because two witnesses were able to attend despite the inclement weather. When contacted Wednesday, Jones said, "Mr. Long had a summary trial in which he was found guilty. He has appeal rights."
Testifying for the commonwealth were arresting officer Trooper Daniel Wilk of state police at Stonington and accident witnesses Dr. Dwain Rogers, of Elysburg, and Donald Kellenberger, of Adamstown. Jones said Rogers, who provided medical assistance at the accident scene, works in Titusville.
State police said Stanley was driving a 1990 Toyota that was struck head-on by a 1994 Dodge Dakota driven west on the highway by Long. The crash occurred between Elysburg and Riverside near High Road.