Jury finds man not guilty of vehicular homicide in trooper’s death

CLEVELAND-- The jury reached a verdict on Thursday in the case of a man accused of hitting and killing an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 90.

Joshua Gaspar, 37, faced multiple counts in connection with the Sept. 15, 2016 crash that claimed the life of Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez. The 48-year-old trooper was outside his cruiser on I-90 in Cleveland when he was hit.

A Cuyahoga County jury found Gaspar not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and tampering with records. He was convicted of driving under a suspended license, certain acts prohibited, a separate count of tampering with records and falsification. Deputies took him away in handcuffs.

Prosecutors said Gaspar, who had methadone in his system, was impaired at the time of the crash.

Assistant prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan told jurors that just minutes before Gaspar struck the trooper he took methadone at a clinic in Cleveland. She stressed Gaspar was following the car in front of him too closely, and drove in the berm prior to hitting Trooper Velez.

"Everyone else on the highway slowed down; the defendant chose not to slow down," Jordan said.

Assistant prosecutor Blaise Thomas told jurors Velez was killed because of the defendant's actions, and dismissed defense arguments that the crash was a tragic accident.

But attorney Jonathan Sinn, who represents Gaspar, said his client took a prescribed amount of methadone at the doctor’s office, while battling an opioid addiction. He maintains his client was not impaired.

"The truth is that this was an accident," Sinn said. "He received a prescribed dose of methadone."

Sinn also reminded jurors of the testimony from Gaspar's doctor, who said those taking methadone therapy can drive as well as those not on methadone therapy.

After attorneys finished closing arguments, jurors began deliberations. They deliberated for about an hour on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, they deliberated about six hours and deliberations lasted about four-and-a-half hours on Thursday.

The case started two weeks ago. The prosecution rested last week and the defense rested Monday afternoon without the defendant taking the stand.

Continuing coverage on this story here