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DUI evidence lacking in Sewickley Township fatal wreck, lawyer argues

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 4:51 p.m.
Matthew Poston, of Rillton, leaves Magisterial District Judge Charles Christner's office on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Matthew Poston, of Rillton, leaves Magisterial District Judge Charles Christner's office on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.

Criminal charges against a Sewickley Township man accused of being drunk two years ago when he caused a fatal car crash should be dismissed because there is no hard evidence of intoxication, a defense lawyer said in court Tuesday.

Matthew Poston, 31, is awaiting trial on vehicular homicide and drunken-driving charges in connection with the Feb. 22, 2015, crash that killed his passenger, 33-year-old Gary L. Moore Jr. of Yukon. Moore was the head of the Rostraver ambulance service.

Defense attorney Caroline Roberto, during a pretrial hearing before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani, argued that the prosecution has no evidence that Poston's blood-alcohol content was above the 0.08 percent level at which a motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated.

“They know legally they can't prove it,” Roberto said as she brandished a copy of a report from a prosecution-hired medical expert who said he could not extrapolate Poston's blood-alcohol level at the time of the late-night crash on Lowber Road in Sewickley Township.

Roberto previously contended that dangerous road conditions from cold, snowy and windy weather, and not alcohol, caused the wreck.

Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda said the prosecution, based on evidence from a bartender in the club where Poston spent several hours before crash, said she had served him beer and tequila before he volunteered to drive Moore home about 1:30 a.m. The bartender told police Moore was too drunk to drive.

Investigators found Poston's pickup at 3 a.m. against a guiderail with damage to the vehicle and Moore , the manager of the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Service ambulance company.

Investigators said they believed Poston's truck swerved off the road and hit a utility pole.

Police said Poston fled the scene before he voluntarily went to the state police barracks in Greensburg 12 hours later and told investigators he had been drinking and caused the fatality.

The defense now claims police improperly took that confession because Poston and his father, who accompanied him to the station, asked that he be represented by a lawyer during the interrogation.

Edward Poston testified Tuesday that he unsuccessfully tried to secure a lawyer for his son earlier that day and that police were told Poston wanted an attorney before questioning was to begin.

Trooper Joseph Lauricia testified neither Poston nor his father asked for a lawyer. Matthew Poston, according to Lauricia, was a person of interest but was not in custody and not under arrest during the questioning.

“It was explained to him they were there under their own free will. We told him he wasn't in custody and he agreed to speak with us,” Lauricia testified.

No date has been set for Poston's trial. Feliciani said Tuesday he will rule on the defense request to dismiss the charges after he reviews written legal arguments to be submitted later.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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