The prosecution and defense stipulated at trial that former Pittsburgh police officer Adam Lewis was legally intoxicated when he was involved in a motorcycle crash three years ago that killed his fiancee's friend.
But there was no testimony during the nonjury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning that Mr. Lewis showed any signs of impairment. Instead, both prosecution and defense witnesses testified that the man appeared to be fine, having made a drive of more than 25 miles from Westmoreland County just before the crash, and weaving around raised manhole covers along Carson Street, with no problems at all. A blood-alcohol test showed his level at 0.108, above the state's legal limit of 0.08.
But there also was testimony that Mr. Lewis was traveling at about 15 mph over the posted speed limit as he and Jessica Lojak took a sharp curve on Mifflin Road about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 26, 2010.
Evidence showed he leaned too far into the curve, causing the foot-peg of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to scrape along the roadway.
Mr. Lewis over-corrected the bike so far to the left that it veered into the oncoming lane, getting struck as it did by a sport utility vehicle.
And so, Judge Manning found Mr. Lewis guilty of homicide by vehicle for speeding, but not guilty of homicide by vehicle for DUI.
The difference is that the defendant now will not face a mandatory 3 to 6 years in prison as is required with a conviction for homicide by vehicle while drunk.
Judge Manning will sentence Mr. Lewis, 31, on Jan. 6.
Defense attorney William Difenderfer expects Mr. Lewis to face some period of incarceration. The defendant will be held on electronic home monitoring pending sentencing.
Mr. Lewis' now-wife was with friends on the South Side for her bachelorette party that night, and he drove down to meet the group.
Lojak, 28, of Fawn, asked if she could ride with him on his motorcycle back to his house.
The defense attempted to show at trial that Lojak shifted her weight going around the curve, causing Mr. Lewis to lose control of the motorcycle.
But Judge Manning rejected that theory.
Judge Manning found that speeding in that location, on a motorcycle, is gross negligence.
"The defendant should have been aware of the risks and recognized them," he said.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published October 8, 2013 7:39 AM