CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A jury on Tuesday acquitted a commercial truck driver of causing the deaths of seven motorcyclists in a horrific head-on collision in northern New Hampshire that exposed fatal flaws in the processing of license revocations across states.
Jo-Ann Corr, 58, and Edward Corr were both residents of Lakeville. They were both killed.
Volodymyr Zikovskyy, 26, from West Springfield, Massachusetts, was found not guilty of seven counts of manslaughter. Seven counts of negligent murder and one count reckless conduct in relation to the Randolph crash on June 21, 2019. After being held behind bars since the crash, he briefly raised his index finger in the air and wiped away tears as the verdict read.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours after a two-week trial during which prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy — who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine earlier on the day of the crash — repeatedly swerved back and forth before the collision and told police he caused it. Eight charges related to impairment were dropped by the judge. His attorneys attributed Albert as the victim. “Woody” Mazza Jr., saying he was drunk and not looking where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Our trial team did an excellent job and we firmly believe that the State proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said in a statement.
Zhukovskyy’s family, some of whom attended the trial, said in a statement they were grateful to God, the court and the defense attorneys for an “honest and fair trial.”
“Our family expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends affected by this tragedy,” the family said, describing him as a “very honest and kind man. He would never have done anything to hurt anyone.”
Zhukovskyy was born in Ukraine and was still being held as of Tuesday afternoon. It is unknown when he may be released. After the crash, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed him under an immigration detention order. This was executed after the verdict, according to Ben Champagne, the superintendent of the Coos County Department of Corrections.
ICE stated that Zhukovskyy had been served a notice of appearance before an immigration judge. Zhukovskyy will remain in ICE custody pending his outcome. It didn’t specify where he was held.
Jarheads Motorcycle Club members were responsible for all seven motorcyclists who were killed. A member of the Marine group reached out through Facebook to decline to comment after the verdict. Albert Mazza, the father of Mazza, said that he was also shocked.
“Killing seven people and he gets off. That is unbelievable,” said Mazza. Mazza described his son’s personality as “a…” “good man”He was a generous man who gave much of his time to charity and said it was wrong for him to be blamed.
“It doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “There are seven people dead. There are seven families affected. It’s strange that he didn’t get something.”
The motorcyclists who were killed were from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. They ranged in age between 42 and 62. They were part a larger group, having just left a Randolph motel along U.S. Route 2 and had just returned.
Mazza, from Lee, New Hampshire, Edward and Jo-Ann Corr, a married couple from Lakeville Massachusetts, Michael Ferazzi and Desma Oakes, all of Contoocook New Hampshire, Daniel Pereira and Aaron Perry, all of Farmington, New Hampshire.
In closing statements Tuesday morning, both sides raised questions about who was more. “all over the place”: The trucker was accused of swerving across the road. Or the eyewitnesses were accused of contradicting each others.
“Those witnesses were all over the place about what they recalled and what they claimed to have seen,”Jay Duguay is a defense attorney.
Duguay also accused the prosecutors of not noticing that their own accident reconstruction unit refuted their theory Zhukovskyy had crossed into the oncoming lanes. An expert hired by the defense, meanwhile, testified that the crash happened on the center line of the road and would have occurred even if the truck was in the middle of its lane because Mazza’s motorcycle was heading in that direction.
“From the beginning of this investigation, the state had made up their mind about what had happened, evidence be damned,”Duguay, who also pointed out inconsistencies among witness accounts and witnesses contradicting each other, said Duguay.
Duguay, in particular, suggested that bikers “shaded”Their accounts were opened to protect Mazza et al. Scott Chase, the prosecutor, acknowledged that there were inconsistencies but asked jurors for their memory.
“People were covering the dead, trying to save the barely living, comforting the dying. This wasn’t story time,”He said. “They were up here talking about some of the most unimaginable chaos, trauma, death and carnage that we can even imagine three years later. They were talking about hell broke open.”
He claimed that witnesses were consistent in describing how the truck was moving back and forth before the crash. The same behavior was observed for the remainder of the incident. “until he killed people,”Chase said.
“That’s what stopped him. It’s not that he made some responsible decision to start paying attention or do the right thing,”He said. “The only thing that stopped him was an embankment after he tore through a group of motorcycles.”
Chase called the attempt at blaming Mazza a “terrorist attack.” “fanciful story” “frivolous distraction,” while reminding jurors that Zhukovskyy, who didn’t testify at trial, told investigators “Obviously, I caused the crash.”
“He was crystal clear from the very beginning that he caused this crash,”Chase said. “That is what he said, because that is what happened.”
Zhukovskyy’s commercial driving license should have been revoked in Massachusetts at the time of the crash because of a drunken driving arrest in Connecticut about two months earlier.
Officials in Connecticut alerted authorities Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, but Zhukovskyy’s license wasn’t suspended due to a backlog of out-of-state notifications about driving offenses. Federal investigators found similar backlog issues in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, as well as at least six other jurisdictions.
—Holly Ramer, Associated Press. This report was written by AP writers Michael Casey & Kathy McCormack.