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Charges stall out in fatal motorcycle crash in Valley

CAMPBELL — New Campbell Law Director Lamprini Mathews said the two misdemeanor assault charges docketed in Campbell Municipal Court on Oct. 31 by previous law director Brian Macala against a Coitsville woman have been “sitting in limbo” because there is no “complaining witness” in the cases.

Mathews said she is taking steps to remove the charges from the court docket, in a sense dismissing the charges. “We can’t go forward without a complaining witness,” she said.

Mathews said the Ohio State Highway Patrol investigated the June 25 accident on state Route 616 that injured three motorcyclists, one of whom, Patricia Hagerty, 56, died Oct. 30 at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.

A Highway Patrol crash report states that the driver of the car “was preparing to turn left into a private drive” and “failed to yield prior to turning left.”

Three people on two motorcycles were coming the opposite way on Route 616 at the time. The car did not make contact with the motorcycles, but the motorcyclists were all injured when they lost control of their motorbikes.

A charge of failure to yield right of way was filed against the driver of the car. The charge was later amended to a no-tail light charge in Campbell Municipal Court. The Highway Patrol was not willing to sign for the car driver being charged with the two counts of vehicular assault, Mathews and Macala said.

The motorcyclists were taking part in the ninth annual Teddy Foltz Poker Run fundraiser to support the Teddy Foltz Memorial Fund at the time of the crash.

A short time before Hagerty died, Macala said he was planning to charge the driver of the car with three counts of assault, a first-degree misdemeanor, because of the June 25 crash. The three counts were because three motorcyclists were injured.

But then Macala learned that Hagerty had just died, so Macala said he was going to wait until her autopsy was complete and then decide whether the driver of the car should be charged with something else.

Macala said he took steps to file the assault charges against the driver Oct. 31 related to the two male motorcyclists. But Macala and Mathews said the process was not completed because the Highway Patrol declined to sign the charges.

Macala said he was just ending his time as Campbell law director at the time and turned the case over to Mathews, the new law director.

Macala said the two assault charges being placed on the court docket were done by the clerk of courts office, apparently in anticipation of the charges being filed, but they never were filed officially because the Highway Patrol refused to sign for the charges.

Mathews agreed that despite the charges being on the online docket for the case, the charges never were filed officially because of no signing witness.

Macala said the issue was a difference of opinion between the Highway Patrol and him as to whether such a charge was warranted. Macala said he decided on the charges after reviewing the investigatory notes of the Highway Patrol and discussing the case with troopers.

“I was advised the state Highway Patrol was reluctant to go forward with this based upon their investigation. We had a difference of opinion about this. At that point, I left office,” Macala said.

More than three months later, no action has been taken on the two assault charges. Mathews said last week she does not expect any action to be taken on those charges or for any new charges to be filed against the driver of the car.

She said the Highway Patrol “made it clear that they will not sign the charges for whatever reason.” She added, “All I know for certain is they never signed the charges. What was their reasoning? I think just basically they don’t think (the charges) fit” the findings of their investigation.

Mathews said everything associated with the assault charges took place before she became Campbell law director Dec. 1. Macala was law director until Dec. 1, but he chose to run for Campbell Municipal Court judge and did not run for re-election as law director. He lost the race for judge to Mark Kolmacic, the current judge.

Mathews explained that the Highway Patrol charged the car driver with failure to yield because she made a left-hand turn into her driveway in front of the motorcyclists.

The driver of the first motorcycle, Paul Halfelder, 56, of Austintown, took evasive action to avoid the car and did not come in contact with the car, the Highway Patrol reported. The driver of the second motorcycle was Harold Hagerty, 55, of Youngstown. Patricia Hagerty of Youngstown was his passenger, according to the Highway Patrol. The Hagertys were on a Can-Am Spyder, a three-wheeled motorcycle. Patricia Hagerty was flown to the hospital with critical injuries. The two other motorcyclists also were injured.

Attorney Miriam Ocasio was acting judge on the failure-to-yield charge against the automobile driver Aug. 18 when Ocasio approved an amendment on the failure-to-yield charge to a no tail-light charge. Both were minor misdemeanors, but the failure to yield is a moving violation and the tail light is not a moving violation, Mathews said.

That amendment created a great deal of controversy. Ocasio wrote in the docket for the case that she “was not aware of the factual basis of the amendment, was never informed of the extent of the accident or that there was a victim involved.”

Ocasio also stated, “Had I known this case involved a serious accident, I would not have approved the (plea) agreement.” The long narrative in the docket entry for the change of plea explained that Ocasio took steps to have Macala file a motion to have Ocasio rescind the plea, but Macala did not file the motion for a Nov. 28 hearing and told Ocasio the earlier outcome of the case “will stand as it is,” Ocasio stated in the docket.

Without the cooperation of Macala, there was nothing more Ocasio could do to change the plea, she wrote, saying she was “extremely upset” and felt like she was “misled” by parties in the case. She expressed “sincerest condolences to the victim’s family, as the victim has since passed away.”

When Macala was asked about the outcome of the failure-to-yield case, he said he had no comment.

Mathews said Lt. Eric Brown, the Canfield Post commander, and Sgt. Steve Murphy of the Canfield Post told her they were not going to sign the vehicular assault charges. She said she believes the language they used was that the charges were not “the right fit” or words similar to that. Mathews said she believes the Highway Patrol also was not happy the failure to yield was amended to no tail-light.

Mathews said she will file for dismissal of the two assault charges “since they were put on the docket, even though nobody signed them and they are not going anywhere.” The car driver was never served with a summons to appear in court on the two assault charges, Mathews noted.

When the Highway Patrol was asked for more information about why it did not sign the assault charges, Bridget Matt, public information officer for the Highway Patrol, responded that the “Highway Patrol completed a thorough investigation of the crash that occurred on (state Route) 616 in Coitsville Township on June 25, 2023. All applicable charges stemming from this crash have been filed with the Campbell Municipal Court Prosecutor’s Office.”

erunyan@vindy.com

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