Driver gets year in state prison for crash that injured teacher
Shedding remorseful tears, a Luzerne County motorist, who had pleaded guilty last Sept. 25 to assault by a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, was sentenced to a state prison term Tuesday by Judge John E. Domalakes in Schuylkill County Court.
Jeffrey James Spare, 37, of 4071 Hollywood Boulevard, Hazle Township, received a sentence of 12-36 months on the charge of aggravated assault by vehicle, to be served in a state correctional facility. On a charge of driving while his operating privileges were suspended, he must serve an additional 89-90 days in prison. He also must pay a fine of $50, plus $50 costs, and pay $50 to the Criminal Justice Enhancement Account.
Before sentencing Spare tearfully expressed his sorrow to the victim, Janet Paisley Smolden, a school teacher in the Tamaqua Area School District, who suffered very serious injuries. Smolden was in court in a wheelchair and observed the sentencing. Although she did not take the witness stand, her injuries were obvious to the court.
The incident, a head-on, two-car collision, occurred on Oct. 18, 2012, on West Penn Pike (SR309) in West Penn Township. Both vehicles had front end damages and both drivers were taken Schuylkill Medical Center.
The investigation was conducted by West Penn Township police and state troopers. Chief Brian Johnson said a search of Spare's vehicle yielded pills found in a bottle and his blood testing disclosed three types of drugs in his system at the time of the accident.
The hospital report stated the drugs found in his blood stream were Fentanyl, Diphenhydramine, and Citalopram/Escitalopram. The report also states each one of these three drugs warns to use caution when driving.
The state police reconstruction of the crime showed that Spare was traveling at a speed of 70 miles-per-hour one second before the crash and that brakes were not applied prior to the crash, meaning there was impact with Smolden's car without stopping.
Donnie Hoppes, one of the emergency responders to the scene, told police Spare was talking on his cell phone while the fire personnel were removing him from his car. Spare denied talking on the phone while driving.