Evidence ties driver in crash to Landmark Americana

By Emmy Liederman
Features Editor

Judge Anthony M. Massi delayed his opinion on the further imprisonment of David Lamar V, who was charged with vehicular homicide after the death of Michael Sot, at the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse during the case’s preliminary hearing on Dec. 11.

Massi estimated that within the next day, he will send a written opinion to both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

“This is very difficult and important. I want to get it right,” Massi said. “I have to listen to several hours of additional testimony and do additional research.”

Robin Lord, Lamar’s defense attorney, as well as Stacy Geurds, the state’s prosecuting attorney, submitted new evidence to support their prospective cases.

Geurds introduced three photos of the defendant at Landmark Americana Tap & Grill, and mentioned footage of the defendant drinking beer and a “Bacardi Fishbowl” at the bar. At 1:53 am, he is seen staggering out of Landmark as he attempts to light a cigarette, according to prosecutors.

Landmark made a $1,000 donation to the victims’ collective GoFundMe page. The restaurant did not respond to questions about the purpose of the donation.

After the crash on Dec. 2, the defendant “falls out of his car. His speech was slurred and he appeared under the influence,” according to Geurds.

As of 3:18 a.m. that night, Lamar’s BAC was .239, approximately three times the legal limit of .08. Lamar’s passenger Justin Fox, who was previously identified as “J.F.,” complained of back pain after the incident. Geurds stated that one of Lamar’s friends tried to take his keys but ended up walking home while Lamar and Fox opted to travel in Lamar’s vehicle.

Witnesses saw Lamar leaving Landmark, travelling south on Pennington Rd. in the left lane. Home surveillance from a Ewing resident who resides close to the scene captured Lamar crashing into Sot’s Dodge Charger head on at 2:07 a.m.

On Dec. 3, Ewing Police headed to the hospital where Lamar was being cared for. According to Geurds, Lamar went to Landmark that night to see a fight on television, but did not remember the outcome of the match.

At the hospital, he expressed concern about losing his $600 watch and $200 pair of UGG boots. He only remembered what he was wearing that night because his clothes were next to him in a hospital bag, according to Geurds.

The prosecution and defense disagree on Lamar’s attitude toward the victims. (Emmy Liederman / Features Editor)

The attorneys did not agree on Lamar’s attitude toward the victims after the accident. Geurds said that “he has shown no remorse,” while Lord reported that he made multiple efforts to visit the students in the hospital.

At 1 p.m. on Dec. 3, the hospital contacted Ewing Police and indicated that Lamar was signing out against medical advice.

This decision lead Geurds to believe that Lamar is a flight risk if he is not hospitalized, but Lord argued that he was still under the influence of hospital drugs and left the hospital to go to his grandmother’s house in West Windsor, which does not prove him to be a flight risk.

“All he did was go home, your honor,” Lord said. “He is not a flight risk.”

Geurds also addressed Lamar’s previous driving offenses, which include a 4-point speeding ticket on August 29, 2014 after a suspension of his license from May 5, 2012 to June 4, 2013 and three points on his license in October 2017.

“This is not an isolated incident,” Geurds said. “His driving career exhibits that reckless conduct.”

Lord cited State v. Mercedes, a 2018 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, as precedent for the defendant’s right for release. According to Lord, Lamar should not currently be kept behind bars because he is neither a flight risk or a danger to the community.

“This type of charge does not justify detention,” she said.

Lord stressed the need to consider Lamar’s character and community involvement when making an informed decision. According to Lord, the 22-year-old has been employed since he was 17, washing dishes and eventually becoming a shift manager at Burger King when he was in high school. Lord also mentioned that Lamar graduated high school on the honor roll, but did not go to college because he lacked the financial ability.

Witnesses saw Lamar at Landmark the night of the crash. (Miguel Gonzalez / News Editor)

Robert Clark, owner of Defendant Management Solutions, was called to the podium by Lord. His product, Remote Breath, breathalizes users at randomly selected times and uses face identification technology to ensure it is actually them. It also has GPS technology that notifies caseholders where the defendant is when he took or missed the test. Inclusion and exclusion zones can be programmed based on individual court orders.

Lord is not against this type of electronic monitoring for Lamar, and argued that if you remove the threat of being under the influence, “there is no danger to the community.”

Geurds argued that Clark’s electronic monitoring, no matter how powerful, is not enough to keep citizens safe from the defendant’s “recklessness.”

“This is a crime that is easy and accessible to commit,” she said.  “This wasn’t one night that a young man did something out of character with his car. A car is a weapon— Lamar had the opportunity to make the right decision when his friend took his keys.”

Massi is committed to publishing a speedy opinion and his considerations will include the nature and claim of the defense, the weight of evidence, prior record of appearance in court proceedings, as well as the characteristics of the defendant.

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