Two charges dropped against Whitpain man in crash, theft case
After listening to testimony from four witnesses at a preliminary hearing Tuesday, District Judge Harold Borek dismissed charges of drivLQJ uQGHU WhH LQfluHQFH DQG resisting arrest that had been lodged against a 24-year-old Whitpain man who is accused of crashing his car into a tree at St. Stanislaus Elementary School in Lansdale.
However, Borek upheld a charge of theft of movable property against Eric J. Otto, of the 1700 block of Whitpain Hills, for allegedly taking a $11,270 check from the home of Laura Ashley Grebe where Otto had been drinking vodka just prior to the accident at 12:39 a.m. May 20, according to testimony.
The judge also upheld summary charges of careless driving and causing an accident to an unattended vehicle or property.
2IfiFHU ChULsWLQH CRhHQ, whR WHsWLfiHG DQG DOsR SUHsented the case to the court, sDLG WhDW shH hHOSHG 2IfiFHU Dan Gallagher subdue Otto, who was struggling. GalODJhHU WHsWLfiHG WhDW hH sDw Otto run away after Gallagher arrived on the scene and DQQRuQFHG hH wDs DQ RIfiFHU. Gallagher pushed Otto to the ground and Otto kept his hands under him, kicked his legs and swore at him, Gallagher said.
Grebe said that Otto had been at her apartment earlier that evening after her friend, Melissa Nichol, invited him over. The three talked on a balcony for a while before the two women decided to go meet other friends at a bar without Otto.
Just as the trio left, Otto remembered that he left his glasses inside, Grebe said. Nichol took him back inside to get them.
Otto drove off and the women also left but heard a “very loud popping noise,” said Nichol. They turned around and saw Otto hanging out of his window with his car crumpled on a tree at the school, said Nichol.
“I ran over and hugged him,” she said. “He said, ‘Don’t call police.’” When Otto saw that Grebe was on her cellphone, he ran over to her car and tried to grab it, she said.
$s DQ RIfiFHU wDs SDWWLQJ Otto down, he found Grebe’s FhHFN LQ hLs SRFNHW, CRhHQ said.
Defense lawyer Louis R. Busico argued that there was not enough evidence to charge GULvLQJ uQGHU WhH LQfluHQFH RU resisting arrest. He pointed out WhDW WhH RIfiFHUs hDG QRW usHG their Tasers or pepper spray to subdue Otto.
Borek asked how he could determine that Otto was over the limit without the blood alcohol test.
“He was clearly incapable [RI GULvLQJ@,” sDLG CRhHQ. “He was seen drinking and within a short time, he had an accident.”
Afterward, Busico said the state did not have enough evidence to support the charges against his client that the judge dismissed. An Oct. 10 date was set for Otto LQ CRPPRQ 3OHDs CRuUW LQ Norristown. He remains free on $5,000 bail.