New Hampshire’s highest court delivered another setback to the West Springfield truck driver accused of killing seven motorcyclists in 2019 on Thursday, denying his third request for a bail hearing to determine whether he could be set free before his trial.
The decision by four justices of the New Hampshire Supreme Courtstated that Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 25, didn’t convince them that he was entitled to a bail hearing to weigh whether new findings in the crash investigation merited a review of past rulings that he was too dangerous for pre-trial release. Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald, the state’s former attorney general, sat out the case because of his earlier role in prosecuting Zhukovskyy.
Through his lawyers, Zhukovskyy has sought to counter allegations that he caused the collision and has raised questions about his level of intoxication from cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin at the time of the crash. Prosecutors allege Zhukovskyy was driving a pickup truck towing a trailer through Randolph, N.H., on June 21, 2019 when the vehicle collided with an oncoming procession of motorcycles from the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, a veterans group for Marines.
The justices ruled that there is probable cause to support the manslaughter and negligent homicide charges against Zhukovskyy and noted that at the time of the crash he was free on bail from a case in Connecticut, where he was being prosecuted for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“It was reasonable for the court to conclude, based solely on the undisputed facts, that, because the defendant had failed to lead a law-abiding life free from controlled substances when on conditional release, he is unlikely to do so now,” Justice James P. Bassett wrote in the opinion.
Killed in the collision were: Albert “Woody” Mazza Jr., 59; Daniel Pereira, 58; Aaron Perry, 45, and his girlfriend, Desma Oakes, 42; Michael Ferazzi, 62; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, a married couple from Lakeville, Mass.
Zhukovskyy was arrested days after the crash and has remained in custody since then. Jury selection in Zhukovskyy’s case is scheduled to begin Nov. 16 and the trial is slated to open on Dec. 6, a court spokeswoman said.
Christopher M. Johnson, Zhukovskyy’s appellate lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Arguing the case before the justices in June, Johnson offered a glimpse of Zhukovskyy’s possible defense by highlighting differing reports about what caused the crash.
An initial report by the New Hampshire State Police said Zhukovskyy’s truck crossed the center line and into oncoming traffic, causing the collision. A later report from an independent accident reconstruction company found that the impact occurred on the center line, and that Mazza, who was leading the procession of motorcyclists, was legally drunk at the time, according to Zhukovskyy’s lawyers.
Prosecutors put the discrepancy to a grand jury, which returned new indictments earlier this year without the original allegation that Zhukovskyy crossed the center line. He pleaded not guilty to the revised charges in April.
The defense also said the independent accident reconstruction found that Zhukovskyy applied and locked the truck’s brakes before impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also investigated the crash, concluded that Zhukovskyy’s truck and trailer did cross the center line when it collided with Mazza’s motorcycle.
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.