Sentencing hearing continued in vehicular assault case

By Nick Walton -

A sentencing hearing for a man who pleaded guilty to two felony vehicular assault charges will resume next month.

The sentencing of Julio R. Freeman was continued until Oct. 17 after the hearing started on Wednesday. Freeman pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular assault, a third degree felony, and a first degree misdemeanor operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse or a combination of them in August.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Judge Nick Selvaggio began the hearing by raising the issue of Freeman’s guilty plea to the two felony charges, which included specifications that “at the time of the offense, the offender was driving under suspension” imposed under a chapter on driver’s license suspension, cancellation, and revocation in the Ohio Revised Code.

State law states the inclusion of such a specification in a plea of guilty or conviction mandates the imposition of a prison sentence.

Selvaggio noted Freeman’s pre-sentence investigation report revealed that he told the crime scene investigating law enforcement officer that he never had a driver’s license and expressed concern over the viability of the guilty plea since Freeman would not have been driving under suspension imposed under Ohio law.

Champaign County Assistant Prosecutor Samantha Whetherholt noted Freeman was cited and convicted of driving under suspended license for failing to appear or pay fine or for default in payment of child support in the Clark County Municipal Court. The driving under suspension offense occurred two days before the vehicular assault incident in the current Champaign County case.

Freeman’s attorney, Christopher Bucci, noted Freeman does not have children and could not have been cited for operating a motor vehicle with suspended license for default in payment of child support. Bucci confirmed that Freeman has never had an Ohio driver’s license or a driver’s license of another state.

After a discussion between the parties on the existence or non-existence of Freeman’s suspended license, the court desired further clarification and took the position that it desired evidentiary proof of Freeman’s original suspension and whether the suspension was in effect at the time of the vehicular assault incident.

The court granted a request from Bucci for additional time to clarify the issues raised by the court and the hearing was continued.

The vehicular assault charges stem from a Feb. 2 injury crash at 3263 U.S. Route 68. A vehicle was traveling southbound on South U.S. Route 68 and had slowed for a vehicle turning into a driveway when Freeman failed to slow down, crossing into the northbound lane of traffic and sideswiping the vehicle before continuing head-on into a vehicle driven by Jill D. Powell, of Springfield.

Powell’s vehicle flipped and landed on the driver’s side off the right side of the roadway.

CareFlight airlifted Powell to Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton. Norma J. Maute, a passenger in Powell’s vehicle, was transported to Springfield Regional Medical Center before being transported to Miami Valley Hospital.

Both Powell and Maute sustained serious injuries in the crash.

By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

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