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Man faces trial in wreck that killed dancer

| Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2003

A recently discharged National Guardsman must stand trial on charges of causing a traffic crash that killed an Irish dancer in Robinson, Allegheny County Deputy Coroner Timothy G. Uhrich ruled Monday.

Police say Joseph J. Livoti, 25, of Indiana County, drove the wrong way on Robinson Center Drive and smashed his Toyota pickup into a Volkswagen Jetta, killing passenger Margaret Brohan, 19, of Ennis, Clare County, Ireland. Livoti was held for court on charges of involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle and homicide while driving under the influence.

A paramedic who treated Livoti at the scene testified that the former guardsman told her he remembered drinking six 23-ounce beers, but couldn't recall the crash or why he was in Robinson. Livoti's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.198 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Defense attorney Gregory G. Schwab said the driver of the Jetta, Richard C. Richards, 30, of Highland Park, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent.

Assistant District Attorney Edward Borkowski declined to comment about possible charges against Richards. County police officials had no immediate comment, though Robinson police Chief Dale Vietmeier said he's discussed the possibility of filing charges.

Brohan and three other members of an Irish dance troupe called Rhythm of the Dance had staged an impromptu performance at a Strip District pub on the night of the crash. Brohan and others called for a cab from Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle, but Richards, a patron, offered to give them a ride to their North Fayette motel.

Schwab said Brohan's alcohol level casts doubt on Livoti's culpability. Schwab said he plans to hire an accident investigation team "which I think will show he is not responsible for this accident."

Allegheny County police said Livoti was driving south in the northbound lanes of Robinson Center Drive when he crashed his 1988 pickup into the right side of Richards' 2000 Jetta.

County police Detective Kenneth Ruckel testified that debris in the northeast corner of the intersection of Robinson Center Drive and Park Manor Boulevard indicate the collision spot. The location of the debris indicates Livoti was driving in the wrong lane, he said.

Carin Fullum, a paramedic with NorthWest Emergency Medical Services, testified that Livoti cried and acted remorseful. She said the ex-soldier told her he had been in downtown Pittsburgh and recalled drinking there, but couldn't remember the crash or why he was in Robinson.

Schwab argued that Richards could have swerved into Livoti's vehicle. He said determining an accident's location based on the location of a debris is inexact.

Richards could not be reached for comment.

Uhrich said enough evidence was presented to hold Livoti for trial regardless of the other driver's involvement.

Livoti, a private who has been discharged from active duty, is free on bail and will be returning to Indiana, Schwab said.

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