Judge sides with Swaboski, trims 'fleeing' counts from 5 to 1
SUNBURY - Four felony counts of fleeing the scene of a March 2012 drunk-driving accident filed against a former area teacher were dismissed by a county judge.
Judge Charles H. Saylor ruled Feb. 12 that the accident on Locust Gap Highway outside Mount Carmel Area Elementary School was a single accident and that a single felony count of "accidents involving death or personal injury" is permissible against Victor E. Swaboski III. He dismissed the remaining four counts.
One count was filed for each of the five teenage victims.
"When a cause and its result are so simultaneous or so closely linked in time and space such that they are considered to be one event, it can be said that there was only a single accident," Saylor wrote in his order.
Swaboski's legal counsel filed a motion in December seeking dismissal of four of the five counts.
The county's district attorney's office was unsuccessful in its argument that the defense's motion be denied, claiming each victim represents a separate accident. The prosecution cited case law related to a gun crime in which a single charge for the possession of each weapon was valid, as well as citing language specific to the statue for fleeing the scene of a crash.
Saylor's favorable ruling for the defense comes on the heels of a November 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.
Police say Swaboski's blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit when he drove off the highway and into a group of five teens walking along the highway. Instead of stopping, police say he fled into Mount Carmel borough. He was apprehended near his home.
Swaboski, 39, of Mount Carmel, was employed as a Shamokin Area elementary teacher at the time of the crash and has since resigned.
Fourth victim sues
A fourth accident victim, Tyler Wondoloski, now 19, of Mount Carmel, has filed a civil suit against both Swaboski and the owners of Brewser's SportsGrille, where Swaboski was a customer on the night of the accident.
Wondoloski's filing on Feb. 19 is a summons and not a complaint that would detail his claims. The other victims' filings claim negligence against Swaboski and the Coal Township restaurant and seek monetary rewards. Wondoloski, who was transported by ambulance to Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital following the incident, suffered broken vertebrae in his back and possibly torn muscles.