The long drunk driving case of Thomas Senavitis that forced court watchers to ask, “Did he or didn't he?” finally came to a close on Monday. The Pennsylvania man was found not guilty of vehicular homicide in the October 2008 death of state Senator James J. Rhoades. The jury read their verdict late in the afternoon on Monday after five-and-a-half hours of deliberation as well as two question and answer sessions with the judge.
The case rocked Pennsylvania as it involved alleged drunk driving and the death of a high-profile politician. Jurors decided that the 46-year-old Senavitis was intoxicated but did not cause the accident that killed the Senator and injured the Senator's wife. While Senavitis was found guilty on drunk driving charges, and could also be found guilty of reckless endangerment, it was the testimony of reconstruction experts that ultimately set Thomas Senavitis free.
An expert for the defense team testified that Senavitis did not cause the crash. It was Senator Rhoades' car having veered five feet into Senavitis' lane, rather than Senavitis' vehicle at only 10 inches over the centerline, which truly ensured the collision.
Also disputed was whether or not Senavitis was in fact drunk at the time of the accident. Testimony from both an expert and a witness who was near the site of the wreck indicated that Rhoades swerved to avoid hitting a minivan that pulled out of a nearby motel parking lot, and it was this that contributed to the head-on collision.
In the end, the jury was left with reasonable doubt as to whether it was Thomas Senavitis who caused the accident that night. The defense applauded the jury for carefully reviewing the facts and paying attention to the laws of physics, which placed the two cars in position for impact.
One thing that the jury did determine, however, was that Thomas Senavitis was indeed drunk. Even though the most serious of the charges were dropped, the man now faces a sentence of over 70 hours in a local correctional facility on the DUI conviction and up to two years in county jail on reckless endangerment charges.