News Column

Texting and Driving Case Could Be First to Be Tried in Penn

January 29, 2014

Indications are that the case against a Nanty Glo man charged with texting while driving in a double-fatal wreck will go to trial and likely become the first trial of its kind in the state.

Austin Molinich, 20, pleaded not guilty through his attorney, Thomas Dickey, during arraignment Tuesday by Cambria County Judge David Tulowitzki.

"The important thing about today is that it is the starting point where we can get things done," Dickey said following the 10-minute hearing. "We'll request from the commonwealth specifics on what they think he was doing that rises to the level of making his actions criminal rather than just an accident."

Richland Township police allege that Molinich was texting or reading a text on his cellphone and was distracted when his pickup truck collided with another pickup on June 11, 2012.

The wreck occurred as Molinich was traveling north on Frankstown Road in the area of Brewer Road. His truck struck a southbound pickup driven by Donald Evans, 71, of Conemaugh Township, Cambria County. Evans and his granddaughter, 19-year-old Cassandra Singer of Northumberland County, died as a result of the wreck.

Molinich had a cellphone in his vehicle but denied that he was texting. He told police he was distracted by a bird that hit his windshield.

Cambria County First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long said in October that whatever distracted Molinich was significant. His vehicle was over the double yellow line by 9 to 12 feet.

Long said Tuesday that he is prepared to go to trial but does not anticipate that happening before July because of the amount of information still to be forwarded to the defense.

Charges against Molinich include homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, texting while driving and driving under the influence.

His case is the first of this nature to be filed in Cambria County since the state's ban on texting while driving was enacted in March 2012.


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Original headline: Texting case could become first to be tried in state

Source: (c)2014 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

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