Court upholds decision to dismiss four felonies in DUI crash
SUNBURY - The state Superior Court affirmed Monday a decision last year by Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor to dismiss four felony counts of accidents involving death or injury against a former Shamokin Area teacher.
Saylor ruled the March 28, 2012, drunk-driving crash involving Victor E. Swaboski III, 40, near Mount Carmel Area Elementary School was a single event despite injuring five teens.
The commonwealth appealed Saylor's Feb. 12, 2013, ruling to the Superior Court to dismiss the charges.
Swaboski's attorney, Arlen "Rick" Day II, of Pottsville, filed a pre-trial motion June 4, 2012, seeking dismissal of five counts of accidents involving death or injury, claiming the commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence to establish all necessary elements. The motion also stated the allegations relate to one alleged incident and that no law aggregates the act by the number of alleged victims.
The motion as it related to whether the commonwealth established a case with respect to the five counts was initially denied by Saylor following a hearing. But a motion for reconsideration filed Dec. 14, 2012, was granted Feb. 12, 2013. Saylor ruled that since a single accident occurred, the defendant may only be held liable under a single count of accidents involving death or personal injury, despite multiple victims.
The commonwealth argued the accident ensued because of Swaboski's vehicle leaving the road and striking five pedestrians within mere seconds of one another, causing serious bodily injuries to the juveniles, and then leaving the scene.
But the Superior Court upheld Saylor's rationale in dismissing the four counts because a violation of the statute doesn't occur multiple times.
Saylor's favorable ruling for the defense came on the heels of a November 2012 ruling in which three of five felony counts of aggravated assault by vehicle were dismissed. The judge found that injuries suffered by three of the teens did not merit that charge.
Fourteen of the original 21 counts filed against Swaboski remain pending in county court.
Mount Carmel Township police said Swaboski's blood-alcohol content was .225 percent, nearly three times the legal limit, when he drove off Locust Gap Highway into a group of five teens walking along the highway. Instead of stopping, police said he fled into Mount Carmel borough. He was apprehended near his home.
Swaboski, of Mount Carmel, was employed as a Shamokin Area elementary teacher at the time of the crash. He resigned shortly thereafter.
Four of the accident victims have filed civil lawsuits against Swaboski and Brewser's Sports Grille, Coal Township, a restaurant where Swaboski allegedly consumed alcohol prior to the crash.
The suits, which demand jury trials, claim negligence against Swaboski for his alleged actions and against the bar for serving liquor or alcohol to what they claim was a visibly intoxicated person.
The suits claim Swaboski operated his Jeep Liberty in a careless, reckless, outrageous and negligent manner and created a dangerous situation for others on the road.
In addition to accusing Brewser's of wrongly serving Swaboski, the suit says the restaurant failed to properly train and supervise its employees to prevent them from selling liquor or alcohol to intoxicated patrons, failed to warn Swaboski that he shouldn't drive due to his intoxicated state and failed to prevent him from operating a vehicle while he was visibly intoxicated. It says the restaurant furnished him with alcohol "in a reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others."