Court hears bail arguments for West Springfield driver that killed 7 motorcyclists

Crime

FILE – In this June 24, 2019, file photo, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Mass., stands during his arraignment in district court in Springfield, Mass. Zhukovskyy, is charged in the deaths of seven motorcyclists in a fiery June 21 collision on a rural highway in Randolph, N.H. A trial is scheduled for November 2020. A defense motion seeking a bail hearing, filed Friday, March 27, 2020 and made public Tuesday, March 31, said the state recently disclosed a report from an independent accident reconstruction firm, which shows the state police initial assessment “was deeply flawed.” (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, Pool, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A West Springfield truck driver charged with causing the deaths of seven motorcyclists in 2019 deserves a bail hearing despite a judge’s ruling that he should remain jailed, a defense attorney argued before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 25, of West Springfield has been in jail since the crash happened in Randolph on June 21, 2019. He pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of negligent homicide, manslaughter, driving under the influence and reckless conduct. His trial is scheduled to start on Nov. 29.

His lawyers asked a judge for a bail hearing twice in 2020 and again in April. The judge denied the requests, agreeing with the state that Zhukovskyy is a danger to himself and others.

Christopher Johnson, appellate defender, said among the issues in dispute are statements Zhukovskyy made to police after the collision; the degree and extent of Zhukovskyy’s impairment that day; the amount of reaction time available when the motorcyclists and Zhukovskyy came into each other’s field of vision; whether Zhukovskyy did react by braking; and his lane location.

Johnson added that Zhukovskky has maintained his sobriety while he has been jailed for the last two years.

Johnson also said the state, in its written arguments supporting the judge’s decision, relied on part of a statute that says people on probation have a right to a bail hearing. He said he didn’t think the Legislature would need to make that right explicit in the law for people who are not on probation.

“It would be an absurd result, I think, to say that probationers are the class of people more entitled to an evidentiary hearing than non-probationers,” he said, adding, “You give it to them, but not everybody else?”

Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase said the judge was not required to hold a bail hearing or use any specific method to assess Zhukovskyy’s dangerousness. He said evidence on that point was “glaring.” For example, there is no dispute that Zhukovskyy said he mixed heroin and cocaine before getting behind the wheel that day, Chase said.

“The defense admitted that he had a DUI and was on bail conditions with a suspended license at the time of the crash,” Chase said. “He was also aware of the danger of drug use because he had overdosed on narcotics and had to be revived by Narcan,” he said of Zhukovskyy’s past.

When questioned as to what harm there would be in granting a hearing, Chase said, “Courts often, especially during COVID, have an interest in balancing judicial economy versus balancing the interests that are at play here.”

Chase said the judge was tasked with one thing: “Is this a person a danger by clear and convincing evidence, and should be held on preventive detention? And that’s exactly what the court did.”

When asked if Zhukovskyy could be deported to his native Ukraine if he made bail, Chase said it was his understanding that he could be deported before his case is resolved.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had filed paperwork to detain Zhukovskyy shortly after the crash. Zhukovskyy’s father said at the time that his son had secured a U.S. green card and had gotten permanent resident status in the United States.

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