ROXBURY, NJ – The driver who accidentally ran into and seriously injured Mount Arlington Police Sgt. James DiStasio in December wants a change of venue for the lawsuit related to the incident.
The motorist, Mendham lawyer William Anastasio, contends widespread publicity about the matter in Morris County will make it impossible to seat an unbiased jury in Morristown.
Anastasio is asking state Superior Court Judge Louis Sceusi to transfer the case from Morris County to Warren County. His lawyer, Ryan Mowll, made the request earlier this month, citing “media coverage and likely potential bias” in favor of the popular sergeant.
DiStasio is suing Anastasio, contending the 66-year-old lawyer was at fault for the Dec. 11 accident. Anastasio claims he did nothing wrong, asserting DiStasio walked right in front of his car as he carefully drove down Howard Boulevard near the Roxbury border.
Jury Bias for 'Sgt. Jimmy'
In a motion seeking a change of venue, Mowll points to the publicity the matter generated in the press, social media and elsewhere.
“There are numerous media articles detailing the extensive community outreach and events planned relative to plaintiff occurring in both Morris and Sussex Counties, including but not limited to a benefit concert in Stanhope, a reference from the mayor of Mt. Arlington that plaintiff Mr. DiStasio is “like the other mayor,” as well as a T-shirt fundraiser and a hockey game to benefit plaintiff Mr. DiStasio,” says Mowll’s motion.
It notes that the “community outreach” on behalf of DiStasio was not limited to the Morris/Sussex region “but included messages of well-being from throughout the counties.”
The request to move the civil trial out of Morris County is being opposed by DiStasio’s lawyer, John Vlasac, who is arguing that courts have allowed Morris County trials of far bigger Morris County cases, such as the 1984 murder trial of James Koedatich.
Vlasac asserts that moving the case to Warren County would cause significant hardship to DiStasio.
“First, the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident giving rise to this matter,” wrote Vlasac. “As such, plaintiff’s life has been impacted greatly and he is affected on a daily basis.”
Vlasac contends that, for DiStasio, “many of the simplest tasks” the sergeant “completed with ease or without a second thought previously have now become difficult or impossible … These tasks include driving, personal hygiene and care, and simply speaking and focusing.”
Additionally, Vlasac argues that Anastasio – in talking to TAPinto Roxbury and other media – added to the pre-trial publicity he now cites in seeking a change of venue.
The judge is expected to rule on the change of venue request next week.
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