Jurors didn't take much time to exonerate a Felton-area man accused of deliberately running over his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of a Red Lion bar a year ago.
On Wednesday, Jimmy Lee Seaks, 61, of North Hopewell Township, was found not guilty of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and other offenses.
The jury deliberated less than 90 minutes, including lunch, defense attorney Farley Holt said.
Police had alleged Seaks intentionally rammed his Ford F-150 pickup truck into Sandra Diehl about 12:40 a.m. Nov. 29, 2011, in the parking lot of the Red Lion Tavern, 27 N. Main St.
Charging documents stated Seaks, Diehl and a man named Craig Hess Jr. were fighting inside the bar prior to the vehicle assault.
Seaks and Diehl had been romantically involved at least a decade prior to the incident, according to senior deputy prosecutor Jared Mellott, and there was a verbal back-and-forth between them at the tavern.
Badly hurt: Diehl, 49, of Red Lion, suffered severe injuries to both legs, including a compound ankle fracture, police said.
"She's able to walk with difficulty now," Mellott said. "She was confined to a wheelchair for several months after the incident."
Some trial testimony called into question the version of events police were given at the scene, according to Holt.
At trial, which began Monday, jurors were told of a stipulation between the prosecution and defense in which the barmaid on duty that night would testify, if called, that it was Diehl who was bothering Seaks in the tavern, Holt said.
The barmaid also said if she'd seen Hess and Diehl leave the bar after Seaks, she would have followed them out made the pair return to the bar, according to Holt.
"That's because she feared they (Diehl and Hess) were going to start trouble," he said.
Eyewitnesses: Two prosecution witnesses testified they saw Seaks intentionally run into Diehl, "but they couldn't have seen what transpired because they came out of the tavern too late," Holt said.
Mellott said those witnesses had no reason to lie, but added everyone involved had been drinking that night.
Diehl testified she has no memory of what happened, according to Holt. And Hess didn't testify at all, although the jury did get to see him.
Hess failed to abide by a prosecution subpoena calling him to testify, and presiding Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy ordered him arrested and brought to trial, according to court records.
Mellott said he decided not to call Hess to the stand, suspecting he'd be a hostile witness. But Holt convinced the judge to let jurors see Hess, just for a minute, to try to bolster Seaks' version that he felt threatened by Hess.
Barefoot, cuffed: Jurors saw Hess while he was handcuffed and barefoot (he was barefoot when arrested). Hess also has multiple body piercings, Holt said.
Seaks and his friend testified Hess and Diehl followed them out of the tavern and were trying to pull open Seaks' pickup truck door so Hess could beat up Seaks, according to Holt.
"I think Ms. Diehl was hanging onto the side-view mirror of the truck ... and I think she got sucked into the wheel well," he said. "My client wanted to mind his own business and be left alone."
Mellott said York Area Regional Police conducted a good, thorough investigation into the incident.
"I stand by the charges that they filed and we pursued," the prosecutor said. "It was a tough case."
Story 'evolved': Mellott said Seaks' version of what happened evolved over time. After police tracked him down after the incident, Seaks initially denied being at the tavern, according to the prosecutor.
Seaks later told police he struck Diehl with his truck, but only because she ran in front of him, Mellott said.
Also, Seaks mentioned nothing to police at that time about Diehl or Hess grabbing at the side of his truck, according to Mellott, despite the fact that would seem to be an important point.
At the close of trial, Seaks pleaded guilty to simple possession of marijuana, which police found on him when they arrested him. He was sentenced to 30 days of non-reporting probation, Holt said.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.