Driver found guilty after collision with joggers

A 12-person jury found Jeromy Hurlburt guilty of multiple assault charges and driving under the influence following a trial that began Oct. 9 and ended Tuesday.

 

Hurlburt, 38, of Soldotna, was charged with two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault and a DUI after he hit two joggers with his car on March 21, 2012.

The defense did not call anyone to testify and Hurlburt did not take the stand. After the state rested, Hurlburt’s attorney, Lyle Stohler made a motion for judgment of acquittal, which is granted if there isn’t sufficient evidence to support conviction. Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman denied the motion.

In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Browning said the case isn’t about if the victims were hit by Hurlburt’s car. It’s about whether Hurlburt was under the influence of methamphetamines when he hit Melanie Papp, 46 at the time of the accident, and her then 63-year-old mother Joan Miller, both of Soldotna.

She said the defendant failed field sobriety tests, and a witness testified seeing Hurlburt jumping up and down. Papp, when she woke up after being hit, testified she saw him wringing his hands, touching his face and being unable to focus after the accident, Browning said.

Browning argued that he was doing those things because he was on meth.

Hurlburt had fresh track marks that dripped blood when his blood was tested for drugs after the accident, Browing told the jury, referring to a witness’s testimony.

She said because of the accident Papp and Miller suffer from serious physical injuries.

Stohler argued the defendant was not under the influence at the time of the accident, but that he took meth orally right after the accident to avoid a drug possession charge.

He said the state’s expert agreed the levels are consistent with orally taking meth right after the crash.

According to charging documents, Hurlburt claimed something broke on his 1986 Audi 5000 to cause it to veer left. The vehicle was subject to a recall in 1993 that could cause the wheels to lock and the car to rapidly decelerate. Stohler said the mechanics, who examined the car after the crash, didn’t consider the recall, which describes the accident that occurred.

The initial investigating officer, Soldotna Police Sgt. Stace Escott didn’t see signs of impairment or find drug paraphernalia, Stohler argued.

“Evidence all suggests methamphetamine in this case was consumed after driving,” Stohler said. “We know this because of (the) euphoria stage, which was observed after the wreck. We know this because we don’t have any evidence of recent use. … (We) know it based off the levels.”

In her closing rebuttal, Browning said the defense is asking the jury to believe the “perfect storm” — something went wrong with the car, the defendant ate the drugs and no paraphernalia was found.

Browning said Hurlburt originally told police he smoked meth for the first time three to four days prior to the accident, but in his closing Stohler said Hurlburt ate meth after the crash.

If he swallowed the drugs at the scene, “did the defendant swallow the baggie, too?” Browing said.

She said Stohler’s “perfect storm” argument wasn’t probable or reasonable. The jury agreed, and presented the guilty verdicts to the court about two and a half hours after closing arguments ended.

Following his conviction, Hurlburt is not bailable, and remains incarcerated at Wildwood Pretrial Facility.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2014.

 

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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