Defense In Hit-run Case Accuse Prosecution Of Withholding Evidence
WILKES-BARRE — Legal wrangling in the hit-and-run case against Daniel Loughnane continued Wednesday with accusations that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence and that a key witness improperly heard discussion about the case.
Loughnane, 46, of Hanover Twp., has been awaiting trial on a felony hit-and-run charge ever since Rebecca McCallick, 19, was run over on Hazle Street in Wilkes-Barre on July 24, 2012. Prosecutors allege Loughnane struck McCallick, who had been using marijuana and lying in the street, while on his way home from the Gentleman’s Club 10 strip club in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
After years of delays prompted by what was eventually ruled the illegal warrantless seizure of Loughnane’s Ford F-350 Super Duty, the trial is set for Oct. 15.
But on Wednesday, defense attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. argued to further limit evidence prosecutors can present to jurors.
Following a hearing in September, Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough ruled that Loughnane’s ex-girlfriend, Jessie Spencer, will be permitted to testify about a conversation she had with him, but she will not be able to reference what the defense describes as her “erroneous and speculative assumption that Mr. Loughnane was about to make a confession.”
During a previous hearing, Spencer testified that Loughnane once told her, “Let’s just say Joe Schmo was driving his truck and some girl was lying in the road. Don’t you think it was suicide?”
In court Wednesday, Olszewski said Spencer had been in the courtroom without his knowledge during the September hearing. He maintained prosecutors had an obligation to seek her removal to prevent her from “matching or molding or shaping” her testimony to what prosecutors said they expected to hear.
Prosecutors said they were not aware Spencer planned to attend the hearing, although an assistant district attorney said she knew Spencer had been present.
Vough questioned how Spencer’s presence could hurt the defense, since prosecutors would have to tell her what she is prohibited from saying in front of the jury anyway.
Olszewski maintained that Spencer now hates Loughnane and would “say anything and everything she could to twist and turn what Mr. Loughnane said to convince the jury of his guilt.” Conveying to the jury the benefit of her hearing the prosecution’s vision would be difficult, he said
“It certainly wouldn’t be clear to the jury, the benefit she got or the commonwealth got to be present for that argument,” Olszewski said.
Also at issue was a defense allegation that prosecutors violated the law by failing to turn over a complete copy of surveillance from Gentlemen’s Club 10. Instead, the defense got “selected clips” from the prosecution, Olszewski said.
During testimony Wednesday, city and county detectives said they seized the video from the club and turned it over to state police for processing. The only thing they got back was the clips that have been turned over to the defense, they said.
The hearing concluded with Vough keeping the record open to allow the state trooper who processed the video to testify at another hearing next week. He said he would rule on the Spencer issue prior to that and would decide on the video prior to trial commencing in less than two weeks.
Contact the writer: