Trial begins in bike crash that killed WBOC-TV owner

GEORGETOWN — A trial related to last year’s bicycle crash that led to the death of longtime WBOC owner Thomas Draper got underway Monday in a Delaware courtroom.

WBOC-TV 16 reported that Shawn Armstrong is charged by the Delaware Department of Justice with operation of a vehicle causing the death of another person and inattentive driving in connection with the Sept. 7, 2017, crash that occurred outside Milford.

Early last week, Mr. Armstrong rejected a plea deal that would have been to a charge of operation of a vehicle causing the death of another person, according to WBOC.

In the deal, Mr. Armstrong would have been sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months of probation. That meant if Mr. Armstrong violated probation, he could be ordered to serve the rest of his time in prison, WBOC reported.

With no plea deal, Mr. Armstrong’s trial got underway in Sussex County Superior Court with jury selection and opening statements.

In his opening statements, according to WBOC, co-prosecutor Kevin Gardner said, “The devil is in the details.” He said this case is all about the details, not the logistics, as no one is contesting that Mr. Draper was hit and eventually died from his injuries.

The prosecution stressed that Mr. Draper was visible while riding wearing a white helmet on a white bike and a yellow vest, on a straight road during the daytime hours. Mr. Gardner told the court that the only reason Mr. Armstrong hit Mr. Draper was because he “failed to keep a proper lookout.” Mr. Gardner also referred to Mr. Armstrong as “mowing down Mr. Draper with his blue Ford F-150.”

Following the crash, Mr. Armstrong remained at the scene and called 911.

Mr. Gardner noted that when first responders arrived on the scene, Mr. Draper was unable to speak and could only blink his eyes to indicate yes or no, WBOC reported.

In his opening statement, Mr. Armstrong’s defense attorney Mike Abram described the accident as a “very serious, very sad set of events” and said the facts are not in dispute. He said Mr. Armstrong told state police he saw Mr. Draper, but right before the collision, Mr. Draper went in front of the truck and Armstrong could not avoid him.

Mr. Abram said his client went straight to Mr. Draper while on the phone with 911 and followed the dispatcher’s instructions, WBOC said.

“This is not a question of was he seen,” Abram said. “It’s a question of the actions that happened right after that and whose fault it was…This is more of a math problem than an English question.”

After the jury heard the statements, they were sent to lunch but an exhibit– a number of photos from the crash scene– were called into question by the defense.

The defense objected to three photos that showed Mr. Draper right after the accident.

The state argued that the pictures were relevant because they show Mr. Draper’s size, clothing, where he is in reference to the road, his bike and his overall wellbeing.”

According to WBOC, the defense argued that seeing Mr. Draper in that state could inflate jurors and cause prejudice. The judge agreed with the defense, and admitted the three pictures as exhibits so they are part of the record, but they will not be shown to the jury.

Other pictures from the same witness that show the crash but not with Mr. Draper in it were scheduled to be shown to the jury, WBOC said.


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