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Joshua Gaspar found not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide in death of trooper Kenneth Velez

Posted at 12:14 PM, Jul 27, 2017

A verdict has been reached in the trial of Joshua Gaspar, the driver accused of hitting and killing Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez in September 2016.

Gaspar was found not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide.

After two days of deliberations, the jury will present their verdict to the court on Thursday.

Gaspar was traveling westbound on I-90 when he hit and killed Trooper Velez, who was running radar in the berm. 

Velez was a 27-year veteran of the force and left behind three children.

In closing arguments, Gaspar's defense team argued the Ohio State Highway Patrol exercised bias in conducting the investigation into the death of Trooper Velez.

The prosecution argued that Gaspar hit and killed Trooper Velez because he "wasn't stabilized" on his dose of methadone.

Gaspar is facing multiple charges, including vehicular homicide.

The prosecution painted a picture of Gaspar as being impaired at the time of the crash.

Jurors heard how Gaspar slammed on his breaks to avoid hitting a stopped car in front of him, before veering off to the side of the road.

Over the course of the trial, Gaspar's doctor testified to explain it is common for people to drive while using methadone.

His defense attorney, Jonathan Sinn, argued his driving wasn't that questionable.

"Was his driving really that questionable? I mean think of the decisions Josh had to make there. He avoided an accident in front of him, he maneuvered the car off the road, he got out of the car, he didn't fall, he didn't stumble, he didn't look like a person we'd think of," said Sinn. "We talked in jury selection about what a drunk looks like and what a druggie looks like, Josh didn't look like any of those things."

The trial has been ongoing for nearly two weeks with opening statements that started on July 24 with the prosecutors calling their first witness.

Court records show Gasper was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash. In 2009, he was sentenced to six months in jail at Lorain Correctional Institution and three years probation for an aggravated theft charge. 

Prosecutors addressed the court and the jury with opening statements that described what Trooper Velez was doing when Gaspar hit and killed him.

Prosecutors told the jury that most people expect the berm of a highway to be narrow.

"This berm, you will hear testimony of, was wide enough to that three cars could fit in it sitting side by side."

During the first day of trial, the prosecutor said the defendant was at a Methadone clinic near East 55th Street and Euclid Avenue 20 minutes before he crashed into Trooper Velez.

"As you receive the evidence, pay close attention to what they are telling you. Pay close attention to the information they are providing you," the state's prosecutor said. "Because we finally believe that at the conclusion of our case, we will have presented to you evidence for each and every essential element of each and every offense that this defendant is indicted for beyond a reasonable doubt."

Gaspar's attorney then addressed the court.

"At the end of the day this was an accident. Nothing that the state of Ohio brings forward over the next several weeks is going to prove that this is anything but a tragic, tragic accident And this accident that happened to Josh could happen to anyone of us," he said. 

His attorney told the jury Gaspar's history of what led to his pain pill addiction.

He fell off a roof while at work and shortly after he got hooked on pain pills. In an effort to get off those pain pills, he started a prescription for Methadone.

"The government, the State of Ohio, is coming forth with the full weight, measure, and power at their disposal to try and make a crime where a crime didn't happen," his attorney said.

In the coming days ahead, the jury will come to a verdict.