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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Joshua Gaspar Not Guilty of Vehicular Manslaughter in I-90 Crash That Killed Ohio State Highway Patrolman

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 4:45 PM

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Joshua Gaspar was found not guilty of the vehicular manslaughter charges he received following the I-90 crash that killed Ohio State Highway Patrolman Kenneth Velez last September. (See original stories below.) Gaspar had pleaded not guilty.

He was, however, found guilty of driving under suspension, falsification, certain acts prohibited and tampering with records. Cleveland.com's Cory Shaffer first reported on the news following the jury verdict.

A particularly interesting undercurrent of the case involved the methadone dose that showed up in Gaspar's drug screen after the crash. From Shaffer:

[Defense attorney Jon] Sinn called the prosecution "mean-spirited" in closing arguments delivered Tuesday, and said prosecutors used Gaspar's methadone prescription as a way to "dirty him up" in the eyes of the jury in a desperate attempt to secure a conviction for the death of a law enforcement officer.

"Folks out there are getting help for their addiction, and now [prosecutors] are making it seem like [methadone] is unsafe to drive on," Sinn said. "The impairment thing is a red herring. It's not true, and I think you know it's not true." 

Gaspar will be sentenced next month.

***
(Updated 10/11/16):

Joshua Gaspar's bond was reduced from $1 million to $500,000 by a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge after his lawyers filed a motion on Friday.

Via NewsNet5:

An attorney for Gaspar, Jonathan Sinn, filed a motion Friday to a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge asking for a bond reduction citing Gaspar's upbringing in Cleveland. Sinn also cited a letter from a doctor who said was on prescription drugs at the time of the crash and not an illegal substance.

"When the present case commenced, it was widely reported that Mr. Gaspar was under the influence of illegal drugs; however, that was not the case," Sinn wrote. "Dr. [Richard] DeFranco had Mr. Gaspar’s blood tested the day after the incident at hand, and reported that the drug screen was negative for all drugs of abuse and contained only his prescribed therapeutic dose of methadone."

***

(Updated 9/30/16): More details in the crash that killed Ohio State Highway Patrolman Kenneth Velez emerged in court documents this week.

Cleveland.com reports that authorities say Joshua Gaspar was driving at 78 mph when he struck and killed the officer.

Additional details include the time at which Gaspar took his prescribed dose of methadone (12:34 p.m.). The accident occurred at 12:48 p.m.

More: 

The officers who spoke to Gaspar immediately following the crash suspected he was impaired.

"Gaspar's eyes were constricted, his voice was low and raspy and he seemed confused about details being described to him," the prosecutor's filing says.

Gaspar failed on-scene sobriety tests — including a nystagmus test, a walk and turn test, a one-leg stand test and the finger-to-nose test, according to prosecutors.

Gaspar has eight previous speeding convictions.

He's pleaded not guilty to all charges so far.

***

(Updated 9/27/16): 37-year-old Joshua Gaspar was indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury this week in the death of Ohio State Highway Patrolman Kenneth Velez, who was struck and killed on I-90 on September 15.

Gaspar faces two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle under the influence. Authorities say that after the crash, Gaspar fled the scene, resulting in an hours-long search.

Meanwhile, Gaspar's lawyer is publicly contesting the police narrative that his client was on drugs at the time of the crash. WKYC reports that a doctor who examined Gaspar the day after said he tested negative for drugs. What he did test positive for, however, was methadone. He'd been taking the prescribed dose (70 mg), he told investigators, which he'd been using for three years as treatment for a painkiller addiction.

Defense attorney Jon Sinn said Gaspar was not under the influence on any drugs and test results prove his contention.

“Josh is clean. Josh is sober. Josh got into an accident and that can happen to anyone,” Sinn said. “While our hearts go out to the trooper, at the end of the day, it’s not right to penalize Josh for something that's nothing more than a tragic, tragic accident.”

[snip]

Channel 3 News has obtained a copy of the Sept. 19 letter from Dr. Richard DeFranco, who examined Gaspar a day after the crash.

“[Gaspar] was understandably upset….He was not intoxicated,” DeFranco wrote.

He added that Gaspar was tested for illegal drugs, as usual, during the Sept. 15 visit.

“…and this drug screen was negative for all drugs of abuse tested for. It was positive only for his therapeutic dose of methadone,” the doctor concluded.

His lawyer says studies show methadone does not impair driving.

Gaspar remains in jail on $500,000 bond. His lawyer intends to ask the court for a lower bond today.

***

(Updated 9/17/16): Police say 37-year-old Joshua Gaspar, the man who hit and killed Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez on Thursday, was on drugs at the time of the crash.

While police nor court documents indicate what drugs Gaspar was using, according to Cleveland.com, he has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide.

Gaspar will probably be in court at some point today. (Update to the update: That's happened. No plea entered. Held on $500,000 bond.)

The Columbia Station man has two prior felonies: In 2007, he was arrested with crack cocaine and methadone; and in 2009 he was charged with aggravated theft for scamming an elderly Parma man out of $2,000.

***

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(Original story 9/16/16): Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez died Thursday afternoon from injuries sustained in a car crash near Lakewood. 

In a press release, OHSP said the crash occurred on I-90 right around the McKinley exit just before one p.m. Velez was "conducting traffic enforcement" and was outside his patrol car when he was struck.

“This is a tragedy for the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety,” said Colonel Paul Pride, Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent, in the release. “Our prayers go out to the Velez family during this difficult time.”

Velez was 48 and stationed at OHSP's Brook Park post. He is survived by his three children.

Thursday's highway closure in the wake of the crash lasted until about 5:30 p.m., causing lengthy delays on Cleveland's west side. 

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