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YOUNGSTOWN Man pleads guilty to vehicular assault



Published: Thu, February 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The levels of the charges were reduced.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A West Judson Avenue man faces three years in prison for a July 2001 traffic accident that badly injured two pedestrians.

Daniel J. Harris, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to two counts of aggravated vehicular assault.

As part of a plea agreement with the county prosecutor's office, the charges were reduced from third-degree felonies, which carry a penalty of one to five years in prison, to fourth-degree felonies with a penalty of up to 18 months per count behind bars.

Harris could also be placed on probation.

Assistant Prosecutor Lori Shells-Conne said the sentence will depend on the outcome of a background check ordered by Judge Jack Durkin.

Victims: The victims, Tiffany Patterson of Woodford Avenue and Jonelle Austin of Kenmore Avenue, gave their consent to the agreement, she said. Patterson was 29 and Austin was 31 at the time of the accident.

Police reports say Harris' vehicle struck the women as they walked across Glenwood Avenue July 29. Harris told police he didn't see the women and admitted he'd been drinking.

"This is a fair resolution," said defense attorney Gary Van Brocklin.

He said Harris deserves punishment because the accident left both victims with severe injuries. The reduction in Harris' potential sentence is fair because he has no prior criminal record, Van Brocklin said.

"In my view, this was a horrendously tragic automobile accident," he said. "Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do to convince the judge that [Harris] should not go to prison."

The victims were not in court for the plea, but Shells-Conne said they plan to attend the sentencing.

bjackson@vindy.com




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