Defense rests in Comerzan trial

Court to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Thursday

Comerzan trial enters third day

UPDATE, 7:00 p.m.: The defense rests.

For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, defense attorneys called several witnesses.

Charlie James questioned Trooper Tolman Hollman about his interviews with Comerzan. Hollman interviewed Comerzan several times over the course of the investigation.

Apparently, in the video of a subsequent interview, it sounded like Hollman said "I hope when we were talking at your house, I hope you were afraid" when speaking to Comerzan. The transcript also reflected the word "were."

Hollman said he probably meant to say "weren't" and couldn't see himself saying something like that.

"I don't think we would get very far if I was threatening him," he said.

Lt. Charles Day, a trainer at the emergency driving school, testified that the way the mirrors were positioned on Comerzan's bike, he wouldn't have seen the patrol car in them. 
Other witnesses who already took the stand were called back to clarify their eyewitness testimony about seeing Bava and Comerzan on Route FF.

The defense has rested and the evidence portion of the trial is complete. The jury will return Thursday at 9:30 a.m. for instructions and closing arguments.

UPDATE: The state will not call forward any more witnesses or present evidence. Attorneys for Comerzan are now calling witnesses.

Check back with ABC 17 News for updates on when the jury will begin deliberations.

ORIGINAL STORY: Wednesday morning's court proceedings began without the jury as the attorneys for both sides argued over whether to allow a new witness to testify in the case against defendant Serghei Comerzan.

Audrain County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Fox wanted to call Adam Utterback to the stand to testify on whether or not Comerzan ever said he would run from law enforcement officers if they attempted to pull him over.

Comerzan is the motorcyclist who was speeding in rural Audrain County in 2015 and Trooper James Bava died while attempting to pull him over.

The state is trying to prove that Comerzan knew Bava was trying to pull him over. Comerzan's attorneys, Charlie and John James, have said there's not nearly enough evidence to prove he knew that.

Utterback, a former friend of Comerzan's, did not testify in his first trial last May. It ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't agree on a verdict.

Fox said Utterback didn't take the stand then because his testimony was considered self-serving hearsay. But in a video clip of one of Comerzan's interviews with investigators, he said he wouldn't try to run from cops, so Fox said Utterback's testimony would counter that.

Comerzan's attorneys argued that Utterback hadn't been deposed and since Comerzan had prior speeding tickets, it demonstrates he would stop for a law enforcement officer.

Ultimately, Judge Ted House allowed Utterback to testify. 

Utterback told the jury he and Comerzan used to ride motorcycles fast together around Audrain County. He also sent Comerzan a Snapchat on the day of the crash with a link to a news article about the crash. He said Comerzan replied that the incident "was crazy."

He was asked about a conversation he had with Comerzan a few years before the crash, but Utterback said he couldn't remember the conversation firsthand, and only knw about it from a video of an interview he did with an investigator after Bava's death.

When asked by Fox what they said they would do if they encountered police, Utterback said he would stop, but couldn't say definitively what Comerzan would do.

"He never said that he would, he never said that he wouldn't," said Utterback.

Sgt. Paul Meyers took the stand after Utterback and spent several hours being questioned by both sides. Meyers is a certified crash investigator and used data from Bava's patrol car to reconstruct the crash.

The investigation has revealed that Bava and Comerzan passed each other on Route FF, which is a hilly and dangerous road. Comerzan was going west and Bava going east. Meyers said that witness testimony was a key part in being able to calculate where Bava turned on his lights to start pursuing Comerzan.

Meyers testified that a witness on Monday indicated Bava turned on his lights at a driveway on Route FF, which he said changed his calculations. He said he originally had Bava doing that several dozen feet away, at the bottom of one of the hills on Route FF.

He used a few different speeds to calculate the time Bava and Comerzan would have been in each other's sights. The jury saw a graph of speeds from 55 to 105 mph. Comerzan has said he was going about 100 mph and Bava said on a radio transmission that he clocked him at 105 mph.

Meyers said that with the new location and depending on speed, Comerzan and Bava could have been visible to each other for between 5 and 8 seconds.

Meyers also testified that he and another trooper experimented with how long it might take for Bava to turn around and start following Comerzan. He said the average time it took was about 18 seconds. 

Defense attorney John James attacked that point and pushed Meyers on the exact location where Bava turned his lights on. James said that in an interview with investigators, Comerzan indicated he saw them when he reached the bottom of a hill but Meyers said that they met east of the hill crest.

James pushed him further. He asked him, as an expert witness in accident reconstruction, if he could say with certainty that they met east of the hill crest. Meyers maintained that they did.

comments powered by Disqus

ABC 17 News Stormtrack

  • Wednesday March 21 Evening Weather Video

Top Videos