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Judge allows vehicle’s computer data as evidence in hit-and-run fatality case



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Updated: January 8, 2014 6:12AM

Attorneys representing a Lakes of the Four Seasons man on trial in a fatal hit-and-run crash asked the judge to suppress information police investigators retrieved that showed the speed the man was traveling at impact.

Defense attorney Paul Stracci argued that defendant Jason Cozmanoff and his father (who owned the vehicle in question) had granted only limited consent to police to search his vehicle. That consent, Stracci said, did not include allowing police to retrieve computer data stored in the 2002 GMC Yukon, which police retrieved from the elder Cozmanoff’s garage.

“He was not consenting to anything beyond that,” Stracci said.

Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez denied the request to suppress, saying the consent was “broad enough to give law enforcement access to every part of that vehicle.”

Cozmanoff has pleaded not guilty to charges including reckless homicide and criminal recklessness in the March 6, 2012, accident, in which four correctional officers were struck.

Britney Meux, 25, was killed; David Murchek, Delano Scaife and Latasha Johnson were injured.

Lake County police Lt. Steven Trajkovich said he retrieved data three days after the crash from the airbag control module, which stores information on the throttle position, vehicle speed and whether seat belts were in use both before and after air bags are deployed.

Five seconds before impact, the Yukon was at 100 percent throttle, going 78 mph; a second before impact, the speed was 65 mph.

The officers were running single-file east along the edge of 93rd Avenue near the Lake County Government Center about 6:53 p.m. when they were struck. None wore reflective clothing or gear.

Stracci asked why an agency other than Lake County police didn’t lead the investigation to avoid the appearance of impropriety, as its own members were involved. Trajkovich said Sheriff John Buncich told him the traffic investigation unit would lead the investigation. He said the department investigates crashes involving its own members.

Murchek is the son of Lake County police Deputy Chief Dan Murchek.

Also testifying Friday was Robert Berger, who said he stopped at Sopranos near Griffith after work around 4:45 p.m. and recognized Cozmanoff when he arrived about 15 minutes later with two other men. Berger said typically he has two beers and a whisky, but the bar didn’t have the brand he drinks. He noticed Cozmanoff was drinking Crown Royal whisky and ordered the same from the bartender. When he was leaving, he ordered a drink for Cozmanoff.

Berger, who said he used to tend bar, testified that his drink was strong for a single shot. He said Cozmanoff was served a “double Crown on the rocks” but Berger acknowledged he was charged only for a single shot.

Cozmanoff had been fishing with friends earlier in the day, then went to Griffith Town Tap, where he had two shots and a beer before witnesses said they stopped at Sopranos.

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