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Former state trooper hurt in crash awaits motorist's trial

| Saturday, May 31, 2003

A former state trooper who was critically injured by a motorist said Friday that he's pleased the man finally will face trial after nearly three years.

Jeff Jones, who is on permanent disability, still is undergoing surgeries and therapy to recover from brain injuries and other damage he suffered on June 19, 2000. He was comatose for more than five months.

"It's sickening that (he) can get away with ... murder. He's got a lot of friends in powerful places, and they're helping him. It sucks," Jones said.

According to police, Donald E. Miller, of 137 Washington Drive, Fayette City, turned in front of Jones, who was on his way to work, along Route 51 in Perryopolis.

Tests showed Miller had a blood-alcohol content of 0.119 percent, slightly above the state's 0.10 percent limit for most drivers.

Miller is a former county Democratic committeeman. Charges against him, including aggravated assault while driving drunk, were thrown out by Fayette County Judge Gerald R. Solomon in December.

The ruling angered police and Jones' family. The family had asked Solomon to remove himself from the case because Miller's attorney is Solomon's cousin.

Solomon refused.

After Solomon's ruling, the family charged that the judge gave special treatment to Miller.

Solomon ruled the "record was silent" about how the accident occurred.

In November, a three judge-panel of the state Superior Court overturned his ruling, stating that evidence was adequate.

"The evidence is ample ... that (Miller) was more than slightly negligent. The trial court's rationale ... clearly implies that (Miller), apart from being drunk, was blameless," the panel stated.

The state Supreme Court ruling earlier this week affirmed the Superior Court finding and set the stage for trial.

Miller had agreed to plead guilty in 2001, but he balked after Fayette County Judge John F. Wagner Jr. said he would serve a minimum mandatory sentence of 90 days in prison for leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury.

Jones' mother said she wants nothing more than for Miller to get what he deserves.

"He left my son lying on the road like garbage," said Irene Jones, of Elizabeth, Allegheny County.

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