CLARION, Pa. — More than a year after the accident that killed two Mercer County men and injured two more, Joseph Michael Flynn appeared in court Monday as his attorney made the argument that Flynn was not the driver.
Representing the prosecution was Clarion County Assistant District Attorney Drew Welsh. Attorney Blair Hindman represented Flynn, 25, of Clark. The hearing, an omnibus pre-trial hearing, was held Monday in the Clarion County courthouse before Judge James G. Arner.
Flynn is facing 23 charges in the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas for a vehicle accident that occurred shortly after midnight April 14, 2018, on Miola Road, Clarion County.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Flynn was driving a pickup truck when the vehicle went off the road about a half mile north of Bigley Road in Highland Township. The truck hit a culvert, then the left side of the truck hit a road side before traveling down the road and eventually hitting a tree, which turned the truck 180 degrees, where it stopped.
Flynn allegedly remained in the truck while the three other occupants – Mark Marcucci of West Middlesex, Kevin Yarabinec of Sharpsville and Cody Alan Hughes of Hermitage – were thrown from the truck. Flynn was flown to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, with Marcucci pronounced dead at the scene, Hughes flown to Pittsburgh Presbyterian Hospital and Yarabinec flown to Allegheny General, where he died on April 15 from his injuries.
A state police investigation determined that Flynn was driving between 86 and 93 mph despite the posted speed limit of 40 mph, and blood work later determined Flynn’s blood alcohol content was .143 percent. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08.
To argue in favor of Flynn being the driver at the time of the accident, the prosecution called three witnesses, beginning with Hughes.
Hughes said he was in the rear driver’s side seat, while Flynn was driving, with Marcucci in the front passenger seat and Yarabinec in the rear passenger seat. After leaving a bar in Clarion, Hughes said the group went to a nearby parking lot and got into Flynn’s car to return to Flynn’s camp.
Hindman argued that Hughes’ testimony could not be used as evidence of who was where in the vehicle, because Hindman said Hughes could not recall other aspects of that evening including how fast the truck seemed to be traveling or whether it was a police officer or other first responder who briefly interacted with Hughes at the scene.
“He can’t seem to remember much of anything except where they were sitting,” Hindman said of Hughes’ testimony.
Also called to testify was Mona Weaver, one of the paramedics who responded to the accident.
Weaver said when she and her partner reached the scene, there were already two ambulances present and that a firefighter asked her to help treat someone who appeared to be critically injured in one of the ambulances. Weaver was unable to identify the person in critical condition that she assisted with for a few minutes, but later went to treat Flynn, whom she recognized in the courtroom Monday.
At the scene, Weaver said Flynn allegedly kept saying he didn’t want to go to jail because he had been drinking and driving.
“He said he had a couple, and I said ‘verify a couple,’ because to me a couple is two, but he said eight to 10,” Weaver said.
However, Weaver said she tried to calm Flynn down because her priority at the time was trying to preserve Flynn’s life, and Flynn appeared to have a cut or hole in the right side of his face that was bleeding, which could be worsened if the patient becomes more excited.
Weaver said she attached an IV to Flynn and put on a cardio monitor on him before Flynn was taken to a nearby landing zone to be flown to the hospital.
The third person asked to testify was state police Trooper Patrick S. Berggren, one of the troopers who responded to the accident. By the time he arrived, Berggren said there were already one or two ambulances and firefighters present, while the damage to Flynn’s truck seemed “very severe.”
“It was one of the most chaotic collision scenes I’ve ever been at,” Berggren said.
Flynn was allegedly sitting in an area on his own while first responders focused on the more critically injured victims, so Berggren went over and briefly talked to Flynn, who said he was the owner of the truck and that he had been driving. However, Flynn allegedly asked Berggren to help his friend Hughes, who Berggren said was in obvious discomfort, and that Flynn would talk to Berggren later.
However, by the time Berggren came back, the EMTs had shifted their focus to Flynn and Berggren said he was unable to speak with Flynn again at the scene. Though Flynn was not told his Miranda rights, Berggren said at no time did he take Flynn into custody or under arrest when he briefly questioned Flynn.
Berggren later requested a search warrant for the medical records including Flynn’s blood work, because Flynn said the truck belonged to him and he may have been driving. Hindman, the defense attorney, said there was lax probable cause for the search warrant because Flynn’s statement should not have been used because of his face and head injuries and the hectic nature of the crash scene.
The other issue with the prosecution’s assertion that Flynn was the driver was that DNA evidence recovered from inside the truck did not belong to Flynn, Hindman said. The DNA evidence was allegedly recovered from the driver’s pillar, the driver’s airbag and the center console of the truck, Hindman said.
“It’d be common sense that it’d be his DNA if he was the one operating the vehicle,” Hindman said of Flynn.
After the hearing, Judge Arner said he would review the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, including the testimonies, the search warrant and the DNA results, before issuing a ruling “as soon as possible.”
“This is a very serious matter obviously for both sides,” Arner said.
Flynn is facing two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, three counts of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, driving under the influence, driving under the influence with a high rate of blood alcohol content, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, three counts of assault, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, disregard for traffic lanes, failure to drive at a safe speed, careless driving, careless driving and unintentional death, careless driving and serious bodily injury, reckless driving, failure to use safety belt and aggravated assault, according to court documents.
Flynn has been free on $50,000 bond since Dec. 19, 2018, according to court documents.
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