Attorneys tick off judge in vehicular homicide case

Six months ago, Robert A. Sawyer was scheduled to plead to vehicular homicide and aggravated assault charges for an October 2011 crash on Route 30 that killed a woman and injured another.

Tuesday in York County court, Sawyer’s attorneys said they were not ready for trial and had, in fact, filed more pretrial motions.

That didn’t sit well with Judge John S. Kennedy. A criminal court judge, Kennedy has presided over the county’s DUI court for years and handles many of the vehicular crime cases.

York County Judge John S. Kennedy

York County Judge John S. Kennedy

At the end of the year, he is leaving criminal court to oversee the county’s other treatment courts. Judge Thomas H. Kelley will take over Kennedy’s criminal court duties in January.

Although Sawyer’s case did not involve alcohol or drugs, it was assigned to Kennedy who thought the charges were close to being resolved.

He told defense attorney Jeffrey Marshall just that on Tuesday. Marshall said he apologized for any misunderstanding.

Kennedy told Sawyer’s other attorney, Brian Longenhagen, that he thought the most recent filing on behalf of Sawyer was frivolous.

Sawyer, 22, of the 1300 block of Carlisle Pike, is charged in the death of Helen Hammes, 45, of Lancaster, and causing injuries to Jackie Leese, of Mount Wolf.

The two women had a minor crash in a road work area on Route 30 near Cool Springs Road and had stopped to exchange information. Police said Sawyer was speeding and distracted by his cellphone when he struck them. Sawyer has remained free on his own recognizance since he was charged.

“If the (most recent) motions were filed for delay purposes, I would consider that an aggravating factor at sentencing,” Kennedy said.

Longenhagen assured the judge that was not the reason.

Kennedy noted that more than two years after the crash, Longenhagen now wanted to bring in a “cause of death expert.”

“I can’t believe the cause of the death of the victim is an issue at this date,” Kennedy said.

Longenhagen said he wanted the cause of death expert because the defense has not been provided an autopsy report.

(In his pretrial motion, Longenhagen referred to case law that said if A shoots at B, but B drops dead for other reasons before the bullet hits, A cannot be held responsible for B’s death.)

Kennedy noted he has a reputation as a tough judge in vehicular death and injury cases.

“Maybe you feel you will get a fairer trial in front of Judge Kelley,” Kennedy said. “Frankly, I am very offended.”

Kennedy told the attorneys that if this case was headed for trial, he wanted to preside over it. As it is, he said, he will make his feelings know to Kelley.

“Up to this point, I had been somewhat sympathetic to Mr. Sawyer,” Kennedy said. “But, that is gone.”

About Rick Lee

Rick Lee is a veteran courthouse reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Contact him at rlee@ydr.com or call 495-1782.
This entry was posted in #YDR911, Criminal court, Docket sheet, Lights and sirens, Police beat and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Attorneys tick off judge in vehicular homicide case

  1. Nick Mandalakas says:

    It’s with extraordinary sadness that I realize that this case has not yet been resolved and that Sawyer has not been punished. This was at least a very careless act by someone who had a record of driving offenses.

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