Former area football standout bound for court on DUI charges
KATHY KUNKEL/TIMES NEWS Phillip Michael "Mike" Ryan of Tamaqua leaves the Tamaqua court of District Judge Stephen Bayer on Tuesday after his preliminary hearing on charges related to a June 16 accident.
Former Marian High School and University of Conneticut lineman Phillip Michael "Mike" Ryan IV of Tamaqua was bound over for trial in the Schuylkill County Courts following his preliminary hearing on DUI related charges. The charges stem from a June 16 accident on SR309, at the intersection with Taggertsville Road. The hearing was held Tuesday in front of District Judge Stephen Bayer.
Ryan, a standout player at Marian and the University of Connecticut, was involved in a head-on collision that injured himself and Gary Boettger II of Tamaqua.
During Tuesday's testimony, Ryan did not take the stand, while the commonwealth presented three witnesses: Boettger, Kristine Van Horn of Hometown and Tamaqua Police Patrolman Peter Wysochansky. The prosecution's case was presented by Schuylkill County ADA Jennifer Lehman.
First to testify was Boettger, who remembered driving home from Scranton that night. As he was traveling south on SR309, nearing the Taggertsville intersection, he saw a northbound car, which he remembered as being stopped in the left turn lane. He then observed a car pull out around the stopped vehicle, entering his lane of travel. He swerved onto Taggertsville Road and remembered nothing else until someone was at his car door, checking to see if he was all right. Emergency responders needed to extricate Boettger from his 2003 Volkswagen Jetta. He was then airlifted to St. Luke's Hospital, Bethlehem, with back, chest and ankle injuries. He continues to have difficulty walking and may need further surgery in the future.
Van Horn testified she was on her way home from work that night, traveling north on SR309. As she neared the Jeep AMC dealership, she noticed a car behind her and felt the driver was following her too closely. As she neared the intersection, the car behind her pulled out to her left, into the passing lane. Her first thought was that he was going to pass her illegally. That's when the overtaking vehicle swerved further to the left, as if the driver wanted to turn off onto Taggertsville Road. That's when Van Horn noticed a vehicle at the end of Taggertsville Road. Sure the two vehicles were going to collide, she sped up in an effort to avoid any collision. She heard, but did not see the crash. She did a U-turn and went back to the accident scene to see if she could be of any help and called 9-1-1. She checked on the occupants of the vehicles. When speaking to Boettger, he noted his feet were trapped. The other car, a Nissan, was against the guard rails. One occupant was in the passenger seat, but the driver's seat was empty. She noted a very large man who was out of the car, walking around. She was unable to identify Ryan as the driver, saying she never had a clear view of his face, but noted again that the man she saw was very large.
Officer Wysochansky noted that when he arrived on the scene, he saw two crumpled vehicles near the guard rails, both in the southbound lane of SR309. He checked on the occupants and found Boettger pinned in his car. The officer also spoke with Ryan, who was sitting on the guard rail. Initially, Ryan denied being the driver of the Nissan Maxima. However, the officer explained, Ryan was shirtless and had a large, round welt/contusion on his chest, an injury most likely caused when the Nissan's steering wheel snapped off on impact. The officer also noted that Ryan had an odor of alcohol on his breath, had slurred speech and was swaying a bit on the guard rail. The officer then testified that another Tamaqua Officer, Patrolman Jeffrey Wainwright, explained the implied consent laws to Ryan, who then admitted he "was the driver, had too much to drink and shouldn't have been driving." Ryan was also airlifted, to Lehigh Valley Hospital, and was unable to perform field sobriety tests as emergency medical personnel had him strapped to a backboard.
Toxicology results obtained from LVH indicated Ryan had a B.A.C. of .104 and had marijuana in his system. The tests were taken approximately two hours after the accident.
At the end of the testimony, Ryan's defense attorney made a motion to dismiss the most serious charge, aggravated assault by motor vehicle while driving under the influence, a second degree felony, citing the differing testimony from Boettger and Van Horn. He claimed the prosecution failed to prove that Ryan was grossly criminally negligent. The ADA countered, noting everyone agreed that Ryan had been northbound and crossed over into the southbound (Boettger's) lane. She provided case law that stated traveling in the opposing lane of traffic did rise to the degree of gross criminal negligence.
The judge agreed and bound over all 11 counts to the court. In addition to the second degree felony, Ryan was also charged with three counts of DUI of a controlled substance and one count each of DUI highest rate, DUI general impairment, reckless endangerment, careless driving, restrictions on alcohol, failure to keep right and reckless driving.
Ryan remained free on $25,000 unsecured bail.