Trial on vehicular assault, DUI charges begins for DSU grad

Gregory E. Ligon Jr.

DOVER — A 29-year-old Maryland man whose vehicle injured seven people during Delaware State University’s homecoming weekend last year was either surprised by a malfunctioning mechanism or negligent at a felony level, attorneys argued at trial on Tuesday afternoon.

Former DSU football player and alumnus Gregory E. Ligon’s vehicle went out of control as he backed his silver Mercedes Benz into a parking spot on Oct. 24, 2015, hitting several students gathered nearby before crashing into a tree at about 7:28 p.m, according to earlier police reports.

In opening statements, defense attorney Kevin Tray said a device putting a car in park when a door opens failed when Mr. Ligon exited. He had accidentally pushed the accelerator while attempting to hit the brake to stop while wearing 4 1/2-inch wide boots.

Deputy Attorney General Zach George described Mr. Ligon’s actions as negligent.

“He was in position to control his vehicle. On top of that he was under the influence of alcohol,” the prosecutor said.

Eventually, according to police testimony and earlier reports, Mr. Ligon’s car jumped a curb and traveled more than 120 feet and reached 20 mph before crashing into a tree and pinning a 21-year-old female.

The car hit six others along the way, all who were gathered in a grassy area after a football game. The driver’s side front door of Mr. Ligon’s vehicle was torn off, windows broken and the back of the car damaged.

Charges include first-degree vehicular assault, second-degree vehicular assault (six counts), and DUI of alcohol. Mr. Ligon was indicted on June 6, 2016.

A brief surveillance video recording showed Mr. Ligon’s vehicle traveling in reverse before impact, and the entire length of the incident was at least four seconds, according to Dover Police Cpl. Brian Wood’s testimony. Cpl. Wood investigated the incident as an Accident Reconstruction Unit member that night.

Mr. George described the vehicle’s steering wheel as turned upside down, while Mr. Tray maintained Mr. Ligon’s body was pushed forward into the column when hitting the accelerator while tapping the brake.

Struggling to stay composed while tearing up, the most seriously injured female described injuries suffered from the crash and ongoing problems including constant back pain and hand swelling when she writes too much. She had to miss her original senior year of college, but has since returned to school with physical limitations.

The attorney general’s office presented 1,700 pages of medical records into evidence, and the injured female described the incident as the “day my life changed forever.” She spent six-plus week hospitalized afterward, has undergone two surgeries and has another scheduled.

Another wounded witness testified that he saw Mr. Ligon in the driver’s seat of the wrecked vehicle after it hit the tree. He described his pain as a “10” on a scale of 1 to 10 on that night, and currently it’s a “seven.”

After consulting with his lawyer Joseph Hurley, Mr. Ligon waived his right to a jury trial and opted to leave the case outcome up to Kent County Superior Court Judge Robert B, Young.
The trial resumes at 10 a.m. today, and the prosecution plans to call other persons injured during the crash, and a police officer.

Mr. Hurley said the testifying Cpl. Wood may be recalled, along with possibly two Department of Justice lawyers. It was undetermined whether Mr. Ligon would choose to take the witness stand.

The trial was previously postponed three times.

Mr. Ligon graduated from DSU with a bachelor’s degree and is now employed by his father in construction and electrical work, according to his lawyer.

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