Judge denies motion to dismiss case in deadly Clark County bus crash

Defense for driver argued the charges were misdemeanors; prosecutor said case should move to trial.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A Clark County judge denied a motion to dismiss the case against a man charged with causing a crash with a Northwestern school bus in which a child was killed and dozens of elementary students were injured in August on the first day of school.

Hermanio Joseph, 35, is charged with fourth-degree felony vehicular homicide and first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter. A jury trial has not yet been scheduled but is expected to be set following a crash reconstruction expert completing an analysis for the defense.

Joseph’s attorney, Cathy Weithman, argued in a Jan. 17 motion that on the first offense, a crime of driving without a valid license is a minor misdemeanor, according to the Ohio Revised Code. She wrote the code also states a person who causes the death of another in a crash while committing a minor misdemeanor is guilty of vehicular manslaughter, which is a second-degree misdemeanor.

She wrote the law also says “if at the time of the offense the offender was driving without a valid license, temporary permit” they would be guilty of vehicular manslaughter — a first-degree misdemeanor.

Weithman also said in the motion no evidence that Joseph’s license was invalid at the time of the crash “has been supplied to [the] defense” by prosecutors.

Judge Douglas Rastatter is presiding over the case and denied the motion.

Assistant county prosecutor Kevin Miller wrote in his response that a Homeland Security agent investigated Joseph’s license and found that it “was not issued from an approved location and was therefore invalid,” and that since Joseph had lived in the U.S. for longer than a year, he was required to obtain a state driver’s license in order to drive.

“... The issue as [to] whether the license was valid is an issue of fact for the state to prove and be weighed by a jury and should not be used as grounds for dismissal,” Miller said.

Miller wrote in a response to Joseph’s motion that the man had an invalid driver’s license and this factor elevates the charge from a misdemeanor to a fourth-degree felony.

Investigators said Joseph was driving a 2010 Honda Odyssey about 8:15 a.m. Aug. 22 in the 4100 block of Troy Road (Ohio 41) at Lawrenceville when his minivan went left of the center line into the path of an oncoming school bus with 52 students and the driver aboard.

The bus driver attempted to avoid the Honda by driving onto the shoulder, but the bus still collided with the minivan. The bus and van went off the side of the road, with the bus rolling over.

Aiden Clark, 11, was ejected and died on the scene, and another student suffered life-threatening injuries. About two dozen more children were injured and taken to area medical centers for treatment.

Joseph presented to law enforcement a driver’s license from Mexico, which was invalid due to his immigration status. Joseph also had an Ohio identification card.

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