Verdict in PA Vehicular Homicide Case: NOT GUILTY

The jury came back in the vehicular homicide case of Pennsylvania EMT Jason Fait today, and the verdict was not guilty. Fait was charged after an October 30, 2006 accident involving a Penn Township ambulance that he was driving claimed the life of Frank Scalise Jr., a county prison guard who was on his way to work.

The accident occurred when the ambulance proceeded through a red traffic light between 5:30 am and 6:00 am while returning from a hospital. The major point of contention in the case was Fait’s state of mind at the time of the crash. Vehicular homicide requires a mental state of either recklessness or gross negligence. The defense contended at worst, Fait was negligent. State of mind is a question of fact for the jury to decide.

What makes this case unusual is that the ambulance had an on-board camera that documented the crash. The video showed that the Fait was engaged in a conversation with his partner, and was not paying attention to the light. However, it also showed he was not speeding, driving erratically, nor was he distracted. Evident in the video were two traffic lights that were green in the intersections beyond the accident site.

While the jury may not be in on whether or not cameras on emergency vehicles is advisable – in this case it did provide objective and truthful evidence, and in the end that evidence led the jury to find Fait not guilty on the serious charge of vehicular homicide. Fait was convicted of careless driving and failure to obey a traffic control device.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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