CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Pre-trial began Tuesday for Joshua Gaspar, the 37-year-old who struck and killed Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez on Sept. 15. His bond was lowered from $1 million to $500,000.
A key question in the death of Velez has been whether or not Gaspar was high when he struck Velez on I-90 near McKinley Road. His attorney says he had methadone in his system, but that shouldn't impair him. Prosecutors say, not so fast.
Velez, 48, was standing outside his patrol car on I-90 near the Lakewood-Cleveland line while conducting routine traffic enforcement around 12:52 p.m. on Sept. 15 when Gaspar hit him in his Hyundai Velostar.
Police say the accident happened when Gaspar swerved toward the berm to avoid another vehicle.
Gaspar was arrested after the crash. A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury charged Gaspar with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving while under the influence.
At Gaspar's arraignment on Sept. 30, prosecutor Blaze Thomas told the judge that Gaspar had been going through a relapse and tested positive for heroin or opiates in July, August and his first test in September.
"On the day in question he was fine," defense attorney Jon Sinn countered. "He went, he had his dose of methadone. His doctor controlled his dosage."
Gaspar failed a field sobriety test on the day of the accident but blew a point zero and gave a blood sample. One early test shows no drug abuse, according to his lawyer.
"When the grand jury heard this case and issued very serious charges, they did not have the benefit of toxicology reports," Sinn told Judge David Matia, trying to make a case for lowering Gaspar's half-million dollar bond. Matia declined to lower the bond and instead raised it to $1 million.
Gaspar's driving history shows multiple speeding charges, while criminal history shows a drug case and a warrant out of Alabama.
On the day of the accident, he was so far to the left that his right side wheels were on the rumble strip of the high speed lane.
"I think if they look over his history there are some things they can point out and the state is pointing out," said Sinn. "But if you focus on whether or not he was impaired at the time of the trooper's death, the only answer we all came to is no, he's not."
Gaspar's case was assigned to Judge Michael Russo. He will next appear in court on Oct. 26.
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