On the stand last Thursday, a Phoenixville officer described what District Judge Theodore Michaels later called a “horrific” and “spectacular” crash on Route 23.
Following a preliminary hearing in , charges were held for county court for Christine Milanese, 43, of Phoenixville for allegedly driving under the influence at the time of the one-car accident, which occurred on Aug. 1 just after midnight near the border of Schuylkill Township and Phoenixville Borough.
Phoenixville Police Officer Nick Heller testified that he was near the on Route 23 when he saw a car speeding down Route 23 “at an extremely high speed.” Heller told the judge he watched the car go off the road, and then the driver over-corrected and spun backwards and sideways down the road.
“[The vehicle] vaulted backwards six feet into the air,” Heller said.
While airborne, the car struck a telephone pole and spun on its axis over the embankment on Route 23 and into the parking lot at 700 Nutt Road, according to the officer’s testimony.
“It disappeared,” Heller said.
Heller said he peered over the side but then decided to drive down when it was too high to safely jump. He testified that the parking lot was littered with debris—fence posts, wood and more—and the lot was full of smoke and dust.
When he drove down, he told the judge that he just narrowly missed hitting a woman lying in the debris. She was identified as Milanese, Heller said, and she was bleeding slightly and appeared to be in a lot of pain.
“She didn’t say a word to me,” Heller said. “She just moaned.”
During the course of the accident reconstruction, it was determined that Milanese’s car had been traveling at least 71 miles per hour at the time of the crash, Heller testified. She was alone in the car at the time of the crash.
Corporal Robert Crabtree of the Schuylkill Township Police Department then testified that an EMT asked Milanese if she’d been drinking, and Milanese said she had, according to Crabtree’s testimony. That night, Milanese was flown by helicopter to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment and a drug and alcohol screen was done.
Crabtree testified that he obtained a search warrant for Milanese’s medical records, which he forwarded on for expert opinion. According to the ruling by the expert, Milanese had a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater, more than twice the legal limit. Additionally, Crabtree testified that the expert noted that cocaine was also found in her system at the time of the crash.
Following testimony, Corey Taylor of the public defender’s office argued that the “entire case is based on hearsay.” At the preliminary hearing, some hearsay is permitted, but Taylor told the judge that in this case, the hearsay was going to the extreme.
The expert, Taylor said, was asked to assume facts about Milanese’s medical records. There was no admissible evidence not based on hearsay about when the blood was taken and whether or not it was taken within two hours of the crash, as is required.
Kate Kohler of the Chester County District Attorney’s office agreed that there was hearsay in the case, but said the evidence was admissable.
“I don’t think it’s all hearsay,” she said.
Michaels said he saw both sides, and he noted that “more and more hearsay” is being allowed at the preliminary hearing stage. The judge said that in a “horrific” and “spectacular” crash like the one Milanese was allegedly involved in, it indicates that something was not right.
“That alone shows some sort of impairment to some degree,” Michaels said.
He allowed the evidence presented by the Commonwealth and held all charges for court. Milanese faces three charges of first-offense driving under the influence along with summary charges of reckless driving, careless driving, speeding and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Due to injuries suffered in the crash, Michaels said he didn’t feel Milanese was a flight risk. He held bail at $2,500 unsecured. Formal arraignment was set for Nov. 3.
Felony Drug Charges Held for Morgan
During a preliminary hearing held last Thursday for Joseph Morgan III, 23, of Schuylkill Township, all charges except for one misdemeanor charge were held for county court.
Morgan faces felony charges of multiple counts of both drug possession and possession with intent to deliver along with misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession, resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia. A misdemeanor charge of possession with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia was dismissed.
Officer Christopher Aquilante of the Schuylkill Township Police Department testified that he responded to in the 100 block of Hedge Road on Sept. 26, a little after 5 p.m.
Upon arrival, Aquilante testified that a group of people pointed him toward where a car was stopped down the road. Morgan was getting into the passenger side, Aquilante said. Another man was walking away, and a woman was the driver of the car.
According to testimony, when Aquilante spoke with Morgan, he said Morgan told him the driver was his sister, but the woman said the two weren’t related. The driver gave Aquilante permission to search the car, he testified. He told the judge he found a bag containing heroin under the passenger seat and then went back to Morgan.
“As I went to put him in handcuffs he fled the scene,” Aquilante said.
The officer stayed to finish searching the car, and Morgan was located approximately 15 minutes later in East Vincent Township.
In addition to the heroin, Aquilante testified the he also found cocaine, marijuana and crack all on the passenger side of the car.
Morgan’s attorney asked Aquilante why he wanted to search the vehicle.
“It seemed like all three of them were beating around the bush,” Aquilante said.
The charge of delivering drug paraphernalia was dismissed because at the time of the stop in East Vincent, no drug paraphernalia was found on Morgan. All other charges were held for court and a formal arraignment date was set for Oct. 27.