After several hours of deliberation a jury could not agree on whether Kevin Endriga Fort, formerly of Coaldale and now residing with his parents in Hazleton, was driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs, however, a judge had no hesitation in adjudging him guilty of four summary offenses and imposed fines, after a one day trial in Schuylkill County court.
Two private citizens from Tamaqua testified they saw Fort behind the wheel when he pulled into an alley behind E. Ridge Street in Coaldale the night of Aug. 15, 2009.
James Houser, 16 Schuylkill Ave., and Brian Eck, 254 Cedar St., testified for the Commonwealth. Houser said he was visiting a friend on Ridge Street and happened to be out back when he saw the car drive into the alley where normally there is no vehicular traffic. He saw the car's inside light go on and saw Fort behind the wheel and there was a female passenger. Houser testified he saw Fort inject himself with a syringe.
Eck testified he, along with Houser and two others went to the car to find out what was going on. They called police and surrounded the car to prevent it from getting away.
Coaldale Officer Scott Cramer testified he responded to the call and spoke to Fort seated in the car on the driver's side. He observed Fort appeared in a daze and his speech was slurred and on further examination he noticed a fresh needle mark on his elbow but didn't find any syringe. He took Fort to the Coaldale hospital and tests proved positive of him having injested marijuana and cocaine. It also had been testified the girl left the car before police arrived.
Fort testified in his own defense. He said the girl, whom he only knew as Nicole, was behind the wheel. He admitted at that time he used drugs but is now clean. He denied he drove the car. He said he may have moved behind the wheel for only a second in getting out. He said he became scared when he saw his car surrounded by the men and one was carrying a bat or a club.
After hours of deliberation the jury could not agree on a verdict and the trial judge, John E. Domalakes, declared a mis-trial.
However, the judge found Fort guilty of four summary violations and imposed fines. On a charge of operating a vehicle following suspension of the car registration to pay a fine of $200, on a charge of failing to carry car insurance pay a fine of $300 and on two charges of failing to give notice of change of name or address on his license pay a fine of $25 each plus $200 in costs.