Plea to careless driving in crash case

By Dan Dakin, St. Catharines Standard
Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:36:07 EST PM

Jaron Scandolari leaves the St. Catharines courthouse. Dan Dakin photo.

After three years of recovering from injuries and dealing with the courts, Jaron Scandolari just wants to leave a car crash that nearly cost him his life behind him.

On Thursday, he took one step closer as the criminal proceedings against him came to an abrupt halt with his guilty plea for careless driving.

Inside a St. Catharines courtroom Thursday, Scandolari, 22, pleaded guilty to careless driving and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.

That’s a far cry from the original charges against him, which included dangerous driving causing bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. All three counts involved a female passenger who was also hurt in the crash.

The plea ended the criminal proceedings against Scandolari, who was 19-years-old when his 1992 Dodge Stealth skidded off the road around 2:40 a.m. Nov. 24, 2009, and hit a tree. The crash left Scandolari, who was cut from the car and airlifted to hospital, with a long list of injuries and kept him in a Toronto hospital for three months.

Scandolari’s lawyer and his family allege Niagara Regional Police botched the investigation and charged the man with three offences they couldn’t prove.

In court, defence lawyer Leora Shemesh criticized the actions of police and said the investigation should be examined further.

“We’ll certainly look into the matter and if the Crown brings forward information to suggest there was some sort of misconduct or if it’s a training issue, it will be dealt with,” NRP Chief Jeff McGuire said.

In the new statement of facts presented during the guilty plea Thursday morning, both the defence and Crown agree Scandolari drove around parked cars on Windward St. in St. Catharines and tried to avoid an oncoming car before he lost control.

Scandolari’s father, Corrado Scandolari, claims the original police report didn’t include any of those details.

In accepting Scandolari’s guilty plea, Superior Court Judge Joseph Henderson said: “I’m pleased the parties have arrived at a fair resolution to a difficult and complex case. I understand as the trial progressed, it became obvious the Crown could not succeed on some or all of the (original) counts.”

Scandolari pleaded not guilty to the three more serious criminal charges against him when the trial began last week. But after the first two days of testimony and cross examination, lawyers for both sides met and decided not to proceed, instead, coming to a new agreed upon statement of facts.

“We laid all of our cards on the table and came to this mutual resolution, which was the resolution I offered three years ago,” Shemesh said. “It’s a fair result for this family.”

Crown attorney Marquis Felix and assistant Crown attorney Gabriele Settimi said they couldn’t comment on the case.

The revised statement of facts stated Scandolari had a G2 license at the time of the collision, which prohibited him from having any alcohol in his system.

It states none of the passengers in the vehicle believed the driver was intoxicated or incapable of driving them home the night of the crash.

However, it states Scandolari did have alcohol in his system. A blood test revealed he had a range of between 59 to 109 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the crash.

Both sides also agree Scandolari’s car was in rough shape with bald tires and bad brakes.

“By operating a mechanically unfit motor vehicle with alcohol in his system, on a wet road, in the manner described; he thereby drove without reasonable consideration for others on the roadway,” it states.

Outside the Robert Welch Courthouse, Jaron Scandolari said he’s sorry for what happened.

“I wish it never happened,” he said. “I wish I could still just call my friends and all four of us could go and hang out together”.

“I’m just happy it’s over. It was just horrible.”

While the criminal case against Scandolari is over, there are still civil suits pending and more might be on the horizon.

Multiple civil lawsuits were filed in relation to the collision, and Corrado Scandolari said his family is considering filing a suit against the Niagara Regional Police.

“I’m definitely going to investigate the possibility of it. For me, at the end of the day, I incurred more than $70,000 in legal fees,” Scandolari said. “I’m a little disheartened at the way my son was treated considering his injuries.”