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Carbon County court

Published March 13. 2018 02:38PM

The driver in a crash where two Jim Thorpe High School students were killed entered a guilty plea Monday in Carbon County court.

Tegan Lestat Kane, 20, of Jim Thorpe, pleaded guilty before Judge Steven R. Serfass to one count of aggravated assault by vehicle and simple assault and two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Kane was the driver of a vehicle in the crash along Route 903 in Penn Forest Township on Aug. 20, 2015. Jasmine Fonseca, 15, and Taylor Shepherdson, 16, both of the Towamensing Trails development in Albrightsville, were killed in the crash.

The girls, who were pronounced dead at the scene, were members of the high school cheerleading squad.

Kane, who was 18 at the time, was northbound operating a Chevrolet Uplander when his vehicle crossed into the other lane of travel and collided with a Buick Enclave driven by Verner Drohan, 76, with his wife, Gail, 72, both of Fulton, New York. Verner Drohan suffered minor injuries but his wife suffered a number of broken bones in her hands, feet, sternum and one in her neck.

The girls were being driven home from cheerleading practice a few days before the start of the new school year. Also in the vehicle with Kane were his brother, Korben, and their cousins Taylor Schmidt of Lehighton and Michael Thorpe of New Jersey. Schmidt and Thorpe both suffered serious injuries which required surgeries and a long recovery. Tegan Kane suffered minor injuries.

Heavy rain

State police at Fern Ridge, who investigated the crash, noted there was heavy rain at the time of the crash.

Charges were not filed until a year later after the state police crash reconstruction team completed its investigation.

In a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office two other counts of aggravated assault by vehicle and two counts each of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter were dropped.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Gazo, who is prosecuting the case, said the agreement appears to be “light” for the defendant but that the families of the victims agreed to the plea deal.

The agreement also calls for a jail term of 6 months at the low end be imposed. However, the length of any sentence imposed will be up to Serfass.

Defense attorney Brett J. Riegel, of Stroudsburg, said that the agreement was approved by the families of the two girls killed in the crash. He said he felt they didn’t want Kane to serve a long prison term.

Riegel also said there is a dispute concerning the speed of Kane’s vehicle at the time of the crash.

Gazo said the speed was in excess of the speed limit posted for that area. Gazo added that the tires on Kane’s vehicle would not have passed inspection at the time of the crash.

Serfass deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation report.

Bail hearing

After the plea hearing Serfass conducted a hearing on a petition filed by the adult probation office to revoke Kane’s bail, which was $75,000 unsecured. The reason for the petition was that Kane was arrested in April 2017 for aggravated and simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

The probation office said the new charges violated the terms of the bail, which prohibits new criminal charges being filed against a person on bail.

Kane is charged with hitting another person on the head with a bottle at a party in Penn Forest Township.

The charges have since been certified to court following a preliminary hearing before a district judge.

Riegel said when Kane was first arrested on the new charges the bail was changed to $75,000, 10 percent. But after the hearing was held and the district judge, Eric M. Schrantz of Jim Thorpe, changed the bail back to $75,000 unsecured.

Riegel said he felt the district judge made the decision based on the testimony in the case in which it is alleged someone else might had thrown the bottle that struck the victim.

Gazo argued that the bail terms were violated and there is consequences for that. Leaving the bail at the original $75,000 unsecured sends the wrong message, Gazo told the judge.

Serfass agreed and revoked Kane’s unsecured bail and reset it at 10 percent which meant Kane had to post $7,500 bail.

He was taken into custody, but a few hours afterward his family posted the bail and he was released from custody.

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