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Westmoreland

Sewickley Township man not guilty of most serious charges in fatal crash

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 6:45 p.m.
Matthew Poston of Rillton leaves District Judge Charles Christner's office on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Matthew Poston of Rillton leaves District Judge Charles Christner's office on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.

A Westmoreland County jury Wednesday found a Sewickley Township man guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal vehicle crash three years ago on Lowber Road but acquitted him of the most serious charges of vehicular homicide and drunk-driving offenses in connection with the death of his passenger.

During the three-day trial, the prosecution contended Matthew Poston, 31, was drunk when his pickup truck sped off the road and struck a utility pole. Gary Moore, 33, was his front seat passenger and died from head injuries sustained in the Feb. 22, 2015 crash.

Poston, according to investigators, fled the scene moments after the crash and only came forward about a day later after he was identified as the driver by witnesses who saw him drinking the night before at the Lowber Firemen’s Club in Sewickley Township.

A bartender at the club testified she served Poston four or five 12-ounces beers and two tequila shots about 90 minutes before she arranged for him to drive an intoxicated Moore home.

Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda said he was satisfied with the jury verdict, conceding that the prosecution had little hard evidence that Poston was drunk at the time of the crash. The guilty verdict for fleeing the fatal crash scene was the outcome the prosecution ultimately sought, he said.

“That’s what the evidence showed. They (the jury) needed to have the whole story to show why he took off immediately,” Powanda said.

The jury deliberated about 90 minutes before it returned the verdict.

As a result of the conviction, Poston faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least three years in prison and could be ordered to serve up to 10 years behind bars, Powanda said.

Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani said he will sentence Poston within the next month.

Poston will remain free on bail until he is sentenced.

Defense attorney Caroline Roberto and Poston declined to comment after the verdict was announced.

Poston did not testify during the trial.

A video of Poston’s hour-long interrogation by police was shown to the jury. During that questioning, Poston claimed he fled the crash scene because he was scared. He denied being drunk.

Roberto, in her closing argument to the jury, said there was no evidence that Poston was drunk and blamed snowy and icy roads for the crash. She contended Poston, because he directed the social club’s bartender to call 911 to help Moore, should be found not guilty of a felony count of fleeing the scene.

Moore, a supervisor with the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Service ambulance company, was a difficult passenger and someone no one else was willing to drive home, Roberto said.

“Matt was a good Samaritan that night. He tried to do the best he could under very difficult circumstances,” Roberto said in her closing argument to the jury.

Evidence at the trial revealed that Poston skidded off the road as he drove Moore home. The prosecution claimed Poston drove too fast for conditions, veered off Lowber Road and slammed into a utility pole.

Moore died instantly from massive head injuries sustained in the crash.

The prosecution contended data from Poston’s truck revealed he was driving 42 mph a few seconds before the crash. Police said that section of road carried a 30 mph speed limit.

James Madden, a forensic engineer hired by the defense, said speed figures from the truck’s data unit were unreliable because it was likely Poston’s truck skidded on the icy and snow-covered road.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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