A Lansford woman on Wednesday testified that she called borough Councilman Lenny Kovach for help in the wee hours of Sept. 12 when, after downing between 10-15 "southern peach shots" and a couple of vodka iced teas, she got behind the wheel, perhaps backed into another vehicle, then drove away.
Tanya Gould told District Judge Casimir Kosciolek that Kovach met her outside a nearby bar and told her to crouch down on the floor of his truck so that no one would see her, three times denied to police that he knew where she was, and later told her to lie to police about why she was in his truck.
After listening to about an hour-and-a-half of testimony at the preliminary hearing, Kosciolek sent charges against Kovach, 43, of 331 W. Ridge St., of hindering apprehension or prosecution (three counts), obstructing administration of law and unsworn falsification to authorities on to Carbon County Court.
Kovach's attorney, Paul Levy, asked Kosciolek to dismiss the charges, citing Gould's alcohol-hazed memory of the events and Kovach's statements that he was not hiding Gould, but helping her find her daughter. Levy also suggested police did not make clear that they were looking for Gould in connection with a criminal matter. He called no witnesses to testify.
Gould, 38, called by Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Hatton, testified that she had been tending bar until about 2 a.m. at the AMVETS club at 201 W. Ridge St., then stayed for a couple of hours after work, drinking. She then got into her yellow pickup truck with a male friend and backed up.
"It was dark and raining," Gould testified. "And I had a few drinks in me."
She told Kosciolek she believed she hit the vehicle behind hers, and that her friend, Robert Heintzelman, urged her to "go, go, go." Gould testified she drove away because she "was scared and didn't want a second DUI."
She said she immediately called Kovach, with whom she had been friends since childhood. He reluctantly agreed to meet her outside the Sports Zoo, about two blocks from the AMVETS and a few doors away from her house, she testified. Gould dropped off Heintzelman and drove past her house at 375 W. Ridge St. to the bar. Kovach pulled up and she got into his truck.
"He told me to get down on the floor and stay there," she testified.
Patrolman Jeff Ohl testified that he had been dispatched at 4:11 a.m. to a report of a hit-and-run in the 200 block of W. Ridge St. Witnesses there described the incident and said the striking vehicle was a yellow Nissan pickup truck that had been driven by Gould west down Ridge Street. Ohl, who testified that he knew Gould and her vehicle, first looked for her truck at her house and almost immediately found it in the Zoo's parking lot.
While Ohl, with Patrolman David Midas, inspected Gould's truck, they saw Kovach's truck drive by. Ohl knew Kovach and Gould were friends. Minutes later, Ohl pulled his cruiser alongside Kovach's truck in the 200 block of W. Front St. and asked Kovach, whom Ohl said appeared "nervous or distracted," if he knew where Gould was. Kovach said he didn't. Ohl twice asked Kovach if Gould was in his truck; twice Kovach said she was not.
Ohl then shined his flashlight in the truck, whose windows, he said, were illegally tinted, and saw Gould. Kovach, Ohl testified, said, "Great. Now I'm in trouble." Ohl arrested Gould for DUI. Kovach began to drive away, and Ohl testified he yelled at him to stop. Kovach told Ohl he knew nothing about the alleged hit-and-run, that he was just getting back to Lansford from Hazleton when Gould called him to help her find her daughter.
Ohl later testified that he had seen Kovach that night, at Kelly's bar and at the Lansford Ambulance Association building, and so did not believe he had been in Hazleton.
Midas testified that while he was at St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale, with Gould to have blood drawn, she was visibly intoxicated. She cried at times, and told him that she had called Kovach and that he told her to park her vehicle and he would pick her up.
Midas testified that Gould told him while at the hospital the "The great Lenny Kovach, councilman, is going to get away with this." He said she suggested Kovach had previously gotten away with driving while intoxicated.
A couple of days later, Gould testified, Kovach called her and told her he was "sticking to the story he told police" about helping her find her daughter. He said she should stick to that story, too.
Gould said she did so at first, but then, on the advice of her attorney, Nicholas Quinn, told police the truth, that at no time were they looking for her daughter.
Det. Sgt. Jack Soberick testified that several days later, he was off-duty, standing in front of his house, when Gould rode up as a passenger on a motorcycle and asked him to intervene in the matter. Soberick testified that Gould told him she was caught hiding in Kovach's truck after driving drunk and possibly hitting a car and that Kovach was in trouble, too.
In an unrelated matter, Kovach was cited by borough Patrolman Brian Horos for disorderly conduct after getting into a tussle with Councilman Tommy Vadyak in the police station on May 19. According to the citation, Kovach "did attempt to start a physical fight by screaming, flailing his arms, pushing another subject while yelling 'to take this outside.' In addition, he was using foul language, all of which disrupted operation of the police office and continued out onto Tunnel Street."
Gould was charged with DUI. Her blood alcohol level, according to court documents, was 0.21 percent. The threshold for DUI is 0.08 percent.