Prosecutors oppose further delays in 2016 fatal DUI case in Donegal
A Westmoreland County prosecutor says that too much time has passed to allow another delay of the vehicular homicide trial of a Virginia man charged with killing his friend four years ago in a Donegal crash.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Pacek said the case against Erik C. Anderson should not be put on hold to allow his defense lawyer to appeal a pretrial ruling issued last month that permits prosecutors to tell jurors about a previous drunken driving conviction.
Anderson’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.
“It is not an exaggeration that the decedent’s family has called and emailed the district attorney’s office at least 100 times, and probably more, since the day of the crash,” Pacek wrote in court documents filed this week objecting to the proposed delay. “The victim’s family want and are entitled to justice and the commonwealth is entitled to prosecute these crimes in a timely manner for the victim and for society.”
Anderson, 28, of Stafford, Va., was charged in 2016 with vehicular homicide, drunken driving and other offenses in connection with Aug. 15, 2015, crash on County Line Road in Donegal. Police said Anderson was speeding when he lost control of his 2006 Mazda 6 at the crest of a hill and veered into the opposite lane, struck trees and an embankment before it came to rest on its roof.
Robert P. Ballance, 23, also of Stafford, was thrown from the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A state police reconstruction of the crash indicated the car was traveling about 91 mph — 51 miles over the posted speed limit, according to court documents.
Anderson was flown by medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh for treatment. Police reported his blood-alcohol content was 0.17 percent. The legal limit to drive in Pennsylvania is 0.08 percent.
Anderson, according to court records, told police immediately after the crash that he was driving from Seven Springs Mountain Resort to Hidden Valley Resort when he swerved to miss what he believed was an animal on the road.
Charges against Anderson were not filed until a year after the crash. His case has languished in the court system for the last three years because of a series of delays and pretrial motions filed by the defense. Anderson has remained free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
Last month, Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence against Anderson that he was previously convicted of driving under the influence in Virginia as well as information about a highway safety class he took and completed as part of his sentence. The judge ruled prosecutors could not present evidence that Anderson pleaded no contest to that charge or any facts about the case.
Defense lawyer Michael Sherman argued that Feliciani’s ruling was incorrect and that if allowed Anderson won’t receive a fair trial.
Pacek, in his court filing, said the delays have gone on long enough and that if he is convicted Anderson could then file an appeal. He said he received an email the victim’s mother in the predawn hours on Wednesday that lamented the ongoing trial delays.
“So far the only people that pay for the crimes of Erik Anderson are us. We suffer it every minute of every day. We have no peace as we know Bobby isn’t at peace,” according to the email.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .