A juror from the Dr. James G. Corasanti fatal hit-and-run DWI trial was stopped over the weekend for suspected drunken driving for the second time this year.
The arrest of John F. Jankowiak Jr. came early Saturday in the Town of Orchard Park – just hours after a Buffalo City Court judge acquitted him of misdemeanor DWI in the first case and instead convicted him of the lesser charge of driving while impaired.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Monday that Jankowiak, 38, of South Buffalo, had apparently been celebrating the City Court verdict before an Orchard Park police officer stopped his car at 4 a.m. Saturday on the Route 219 entrance ramp at Milestrip Road.
The police officer noticed Jankowiak’s car was weaving and had failed to signal, Sedita said.
“I find it disturbing that a juror (in a DWI case) was later arrested on DWI charges in Buffalo, and then was arrested again in Orchard Park after celebrating the verdict in Buffalo City Court,” Sedita said. “He seems to have both a drinking problem and a problem with obeying and respecting the law.”
Jankowiak refused to be tested Saturday for blood alcohol content, just as he did when arrested at 2:15 a.m. April 10 in Buffalo after a property-damage crash.
During his first arrest, Jankowiak cited his juror experience.
“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.”
On Saturday, Jankowiak did not mention the Corasanti trial when he was pulled over. But he did mention he had been on trial in Buffalo for DWI and had been convicted of a lesser charge, according to Orchard Park police.
A prescreening test in the Orchard Park case, not admissible in court, indicated that his blood alcohol level was 0.16 percent, or twice the 0.08 legal limit for DWI, police said.
He was then asked to take a Breathalyzer test but refused after talking to his lawyer on the phone.
He was charged with DWI and is due to appear Nov. 12 in Orchard Park Town Court.
In the Buffalo case, Jankowiak had a two-day nonjury trial last week before City Judge Diane W. Wray. The judge acquitted him of misdemeanor DWI and convicted him of driving while impaired, a violation, and refusing to take the Breathalyzer test. He received a conditional discharge that requires him to attend a program for drinking drivers and a victim impact panel. His license was suspended for 90 days. And the judge fined him $375.
Since he was not convicted of misdemeanor DWI in Buffalo, he was not charged with felony DWI in Orchard Park.
But Sedita said his office will look into whether his license had been suspended after his April 10 arrest in Buffalo. If it was suspended, Sedita said a charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle would be filed against him in the Orchard Park case.
Jankowiak could not be reached Monday to comment.
Jurors acquitted Corasanti last year of felony manslaughter, leaving the scene and evidence tampering. He was convicted of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.
Corasanti had faced charges that he was drunk, speeding, driving partly on the shoulder, texting and fleeing the scene after his car fatally struck Alexandria “Alix” Rice, 18, on July 8, 2011, on Heim Road in Amherst.
In a public statement explaining the verdict, Jankowiak cited concerns about Corasanti’s blood draw.
Jankowiak had a higher profile than other jurors. After the verdict, The News published excerpts from his six-page statement and put on its website his entire text defending Corasanti’s acquittal on the felony charges.
His explanation was lauded by the Bar Association of Erie County, which saluted him for his civic service and public defense of the widely unpopular verdict.