Jurors took a little more than an hour Tuesday to acquit a Penn Township man of vehicular homicide for causing a fatal crash nearly three years ago, his attorney said.
Justin Klingensmith, 21, of Blooming Grove Road, was found not guilty of homicide by vehicle and careless driving for the May 10, 2011, accident that killed 24-year-old Melissa Allison.
Neither was wearing a seat belt, police have said.
Senior deputy prosecutor Jared Mellott argued Klingensmith disregarded the signs of drowsiness and continued to drive despite the warning signs.
He maintained it was reckless and grossly negligent of Klingensmith to ignore those warning signs, making the accident a vehicular homicide.
Not criminal: But defense attorney Frank Arcuri said his client's actions weren't criminal.
"An accident is an accident," he said, adding the acquittal shows "this is not the kind of case that a York County jury is willing to convict on."
Klingensmith wasn't intoxicated and wasn't speeding, and there was no evidence of erratic driving, Arcuri said. Klingensmith told police he thought he fell asleep behind the wheel.
After the verdict, presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner found Klingensmith guilty of the summary traffic offenses of failing to wear a seat belt and failing to stay in his own lane, records state.
The background: It happened in the 5700 block of Blooming Grove Road, near the Skyview Drive intersection and in front of Manheim Elementary School, Southwestern Regional Police said.
Klingensmith was driving his 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck westbound when it veered into the opposing lane of traffic and went off the road, crashing head-on into a large tree without braking, according to police.
Mellott said Klingensmith had just met Allison at a party and the two of them decided to drive around.
"According to Klingensmith's times, (he) had been awake for approx. 18 hours at the time of the accident," documents state.
Klingensmith's first trial, held in June, ended in a mistrial when jurors deadlocked on a verdict.
'Challenging': Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker initially approved charges being filed against Klingensmith.
"Legally, the facts of the case were sufficient to support a conviction on the charges," he said. "However, homicide by vehicle cases are always challenging. They present difficult issues. ... The jury has spoken with its verdict."
Barker said prosecutors respect the jury's verdict.
But if there is a similar drowsy driving case in York County, they will file vehicular homicide charges again, he said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.