Truck driver acquitted in deaths of 7 motorcyclists

  • Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Mass., reacts to the not-guilty verdict at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader via AP, Pool) David Lane

  • A member with the Jarheads motorcycle club sits in as the verdict was read in the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., was read at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. He was found not guilty on all charges. (David Lane/The Union Leader, Pool via AP) David Lane

  • Upset family members get comforted by court personnel after Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., was found not guilty on all charges after the verdicts were read at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph. (David Lane/The Union Leader, Pool via AP) David Lane

  • People upset with the not guilty verdict comfort each other while gathered outside following the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader via AP, Pool) David Lane

  • People upset with the not guilty verdict gather outside following the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader via AP, Pool) David Lane

  • People upset with the not guilty verdict leave court following the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader, Pool via AP) David Lane

  • Josh Morin, a member of the Jarheads motorcycle club who was injured in the 2019 Randolph, N.H., crash, and a companion leave the courthouse after the not guilty verdict for Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., was read at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Zhukovskyy was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. He was found not guilty on all charges. (David... David Lane

  • Prosecutors speak with reporters following the not guilty verdict in the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. He was found not guilty on all charges. (David Lane/The Union Leader via AP, Pool) David Lane

  • Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, Mass., departs in the back of a Coos County Sheriff's Department pick-up truck in custody following the not guilty verdict at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader, Pool via AP) David Lane

  • Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Mass., reacts to the not-guilty verdict at Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster, N.H., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver was charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven motorcycle club members in a 2019 crash in Randolph, N.H. (David Lane/The Union Leader via AP, Pool) David Lane

Associated Press
Published: 8/9/2022 8:47:00 PM
Modified: 8/9/2022 8:43:43 PM

CONCORD, N.H. — A jury on Tuesday acquitted a commercial truck driver of causing the deaths of seven motorcyclists in a horrific head-on collision in northern New Hampshire that exposed fatal flaws in the processing of license revocations across states.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 26, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, was found innocent on seven counts of manslaughter, seven counts of negligent homicide and one count of reckless conduct in connection with the June 21, 2019, crash in Randolph. Jailed since the crash, he appeared to wipe away tears as the verdict was read and briefly raised his index finger skyward before leaving the courtroom.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours after a two-week trial during which prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy, who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine that day, repeatedly swerved back and forth before the head-on crash and told police he caused it. But a judge dismissed eight charges related to whether he was impaired, and his attorneys blamed the lead biker, Albert “Woody” Mazza Jr., saying he was drunk and not looking where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Our trial team did an excellent job and we firmly believe that the State proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said in a statement.

Zhukovskyy’s family, some of whom attended the trial, said in a statement they were grateful to God, the court and the defense attorneys for an “honest and fair trial.”

“Our family expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends affected by this tragedy,” the family said. “Our son and brother are very honest and kind man. He would never have done anything to hurt anyone.”

Zhukovskyy, who was born in Ukraine, remained jailed as of late Tuesday afternoon. It is unclear when he might be released. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer on him after the crash and that was served on him following the verdict, said Ben Champagne, the superintendent at the Coos County Department of Corrections. He said ICE now has 48 hours to detain Zhukovskyy. A spokesman for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All seven motorcyclists killed were members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club. After the verdict, a member of the Marine group reached through Facebook declined to comment. Mazza’s father, also named Albert, said he was stunned.

“Killing seven people and he gets off. That is unbelievable,” said Mazza. He described his son as a “good man” who devoted much of his time to charity, and said it was wrong to pin blame on him.

“It doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “There are seven people dead. There are seven families affected. It’s strange that he didn’t get something.”

The motorcyclists who died were from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and ranged in age from 42 to 62. They were part of a larger group that had just left a motel along U.S. Route 2 in Randolph.

Killed were Mazza, of Lee, New Hampshire; Edward and Jo-Ann Corr, a couple from Lakeville, Massachusetts; Michael Ferazzi, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, of Concord, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Aaron Perry, of Farmington, New Hampshire.

In closing statements Tuesday morning, the two sides raised questions about who was more “all over the place”: the trucker accused of swerving back and forth across the road or the eyewitnesses accused of contradicting each other.

“Those witnesses were all over the place about what they recalled and what they claimed to have seen,” said defense attorney Jay Duguay.

Duguay also accused prosecutors of ignoring that their own accident reconstruction unit contradicted their theory that Zhukovskyy crossed into the oncoming lane. An expert hired by the defense, meanwhile, testified that the crash happened on the center line of the road and would have occurred even if the truck was in the middle of its lane because Mazza’s motorcycle was heading in that direction.

“From the beginning of this investigation, the state had made up their mind about what had happened, evidence be damned,” said Duguay, who also highlighted inconsistencies between witness accounts or when witnesses contradicted themselves.

In particular, Duguay suggested that the bikers “shaded” their accounts to protect Mazza and the club. Prosecutor Scott Chase acknowledged some inconsistencies, but asked jurors to remember the circumstances.

“People were covering the dead, trying to save the barely living, comforting the dying. This wasn’t story time,” he said. “They were up here talking about some of the most unimaginable chaos, trauma, death and carnage that we can even imagine three years later. They were talking about hell broke open.”

Witnesses were consistent, he argued, in describing the truck as weaving back and forth before the crash. That behavior continued “until he killed people,” Chase said.

“That’s what stopped him. It’s not that he made some responsible decision to start paying attention or do the right thing,” he said. “The only thing that stopped him was an embankment after he tore through a group of motorcycles.”

Chase called the attempt to blame Mazza a “fanciful story” and “frivolous distraction,” while reminding jurors that Zhukovskyy, who didn’t testify at trial, told investigators “Obviously, I caused the crash.”

“He was crystal clear from the very beginning that he caused this crash,” Chase said. “That is what he said, because that is what happened.”

Zhukovskyy’s commercial driving license should have been revoked in Massachusetts at the time of the crash because of a drunken driving arrest in Connecticut about two months earlier.

Connecticut officials alerted the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, but Zhukovkskyy’s license wasn’t suspended due to a backlog of out-of-state notifications about driving offenses. In a review, federal investigators found similar backlog problems in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and at least six other jurisdictions.

___

Associated Press Writers Michael Casey and Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.


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