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Plea deal in North Huntingdon drunken-driving case rejected

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Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A potential plea bargain for a Penn Township man fell through Thursday when prosecutors refused to drop felony assault charges connected with an alleged drunken-driving incident two years ago.

The attorney for Derek Grove, 20, said the prosecution cannot prove that two passengers in a car that crashed on Oct. 15, 2010, were seriously injured.

“One report says there was no bodily injury and another doctor is vague but said there could be some in the future,” said defense attorney Richard Galloway.

Grove is facing charges of drunken driving, aggravated assault while driving drunk and related offenses.

His passengers, Christian Bosco, 20, and Thomas Newman, 19, were injured in the crash. Bosco suffered a broken leg and other injuries, and Newman sustained a spinal fracture and head injuries, according to Assistant District Attorney Kelly Hammers.

Hammers said her office will not dismiss the aggravated assault charges.

Police contend that Grove, a college sophomore, was drunk after consuming Four Loko, a malt liquor beverage that contained caffeine.

North Huntingdon police charged that Grove's 2001 Chevrolet Malibu sedan was traveling 88 mph five seconds before it crashed on Morris Avenue, just east of Oak Hollow Park.

Witnesses told police that Grove and his passengers drank the caffeinated alcoholic beverage in the park before the crash.

According to court records, Grove's car struck a tree at 65 mph. Police said the speed limit on that section of the road is 45 mph.

Court records indicated that Grove's blood-alcohol level was 0.178 percent, or more than twice the limit at which a motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated.

Galloway said his client was ready to plead guilty to the drunken-driving charges and accept a sentence in which Grove would serve a period on house arrest.

With that deal off the table, Grove will challenge the propriety of the assault charges, Galloway said.

Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell said he wants to hear testimony from the victims before deciding if the charges should stand.

“It's a legitimate question as to whether serious bodily injury exists in this case,” Bell said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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