A juror from the Dr. James G. Corasanti fatal hit-and-run trial was stopped for suspected drunken driving last month and refused to be tested for blood alcohol content – citing his experience in the case.
“I was a Corasanti juror. I don’t trust police,” the driver told Buffalo police, according to a law enforcement source. “I’m not taking the test.”
John F. Jankowiak Jr., 37, of South Buffalo, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a property-damage crash – the second juror from that dramatic trial to be so charged.
Jankowiak was arrested at 2:15 a.m. April 10, a Wednesday, on a charge of misdemeanor DWI as well as obstructing governmental administration, refusing to take a breath test and leaving the scene of a property damage accident, according to a police report.
A nonjury trial is scheduled Tuesday in Buffalo City Court.
Jankowiak told The Buffalo News he hopes the judge dismisses the case.
He said he drank three vodka teas and ate chicken wings while watching a Sabres game at a restaurant. When he drove home, a cat darted out in front of his car, startling him, he said.
“I think I hit the accelerator instead of the brakes,” Jankowiak said.
He struck a utility pole across the street from his home but did not knock it over. The air bag deployed, which he believes caused a concussion.
“I don’t remember getting out of my car,” he said.
“I don’t remember anything from that night,” he said, when asked whether he cited his Corasanti jury service to police when refusing to be tested for alcohol.
Jankowiak, juror No. 12 in the Corasanti trial, had a higher profile than other jurors. After the verdict, The News published excerpts from his six-page, single-spaced typewritten statement and put on its website his entire text defending Corasanti’s acquittal on felony charges.
The explanation of his vote to acquit Corasanti was lauded by the Bar Association of Erie County, and the organization saluted him for his civic service and public defense of the widely unpopular verdict.
During jury selection, Jankowiak said he was the father of a teenage daughter and worked as a personal care aide for people with traumatic brain injuries.
Jankowiak is not the first Corasanti juror to run into trouble over drunken driving charges.
Michael E. Barron, 41, of Kenmore, was removed from the jury on the fifth day of Corasanti’s trial last May after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
In that incident, a civilian called police after observing Barron driving peculiarly at about 12:10 a.m. on Elmwood Avenue. He knocked over a utility pole and drove away. He was later fined $2,750 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to aggravated DWI and leaving the scene of a property damage accident.
Jankowiak’s April 10 incident involved a utility pole, too, according to the police report.
A witness called 911 to alert police that a driver had struck a utility pole on Ryan Street, near Jankowiak’s home. Jankowiak left the scene, and police officers arrested him at 2085 Seneca St. near Yale Street, about two-tenths of a mile away, according to the police report.
Two police officers arrested Jankowiak “after the defendant did flee officers,” according to the report.
After spending the night in jail, he was taken to Erie County Medical Center, he said, where he said he was told he had symptoms of a concussion.
Corasanti’s jurors acquitted him of felony manslaughter, leaving-the-scene and evidence-tampering charges. The Getzville physician was convicted of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.
Corasanti had faced charges that he was drunk, speeding, driving partly in the shoulder, texting and then fled the scene after he fatally struck 18-year-old Alexandria “Alix” Rice on her longboard July 8, 2011, on Heim Road in Amherst.
The Corasanti jurors were pilloried following their vote to acquit Corasanti of the felony charges, with the acquittal on the leaving-the-scene charge appearing to have angered the community the most.
A toxicology consultant for the defense testified that he “cannot have any confidence” in the blood test showing that Corasanti registered a 0.10 percent blood-alcohol content, 0.02 above the legal limit, five hours after the fatal incident.
In his public statement after the verdict, Jankowiak cited concerns about Corasanti’s blood draw, which might explain his reaction to being tested when he was arrested.