stock image of gavel and scale on a green felt backdropA Kingston man is on trial this week, facing 25 charges arising from a March 2017 collision between a Dodge Ram truck and a Kingston Transit bus at the intersection of Kingscourt and Third avenues.

But Aaron J. Richards, 29, claimed from the start that he didn’t do it.

Richards has pleaded not guilty in Kingston’s Superior Court to all but one count of violating bail granted three months before the accident — by disregarding a condition confining him to his residence.

No injuries were reported after the March 31 collision. Shawn Evershed, the driver of the Route 16 bus involved, estimated that he was carrying about a dozen passengers that Friday afternoon and he testified in front of Superior Court Justice Gary Tranmer that “everybody felt the impact.” But Evershed said damage to the city vehicle was minimal, amounting to some paint scraped off one side.

The pickup truck, on the other hand, sustained significant front-end damage and left its grille behind in the intersection.

Richards was discovered by Kingston Police about 30 minutes later. He was on the nod in the driver’s seat of a banged up, forest green Dodge Ram with no grille, found idling in a residential driveway about seven blocks away on Alfred Crescent.

Justice Tranmer was told Richards was initially arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and, on the basis of his apparent condition, impaired driving.

But after police officers looked inside the vehicle and saw hypodermic needles and aluminum spoons on the driver’s side floor and a small bag of white powder in a cup holder in the console, the charges against Richards began to stack up.

The white powder, which the judge was told was initially thought by police to be cocaine, later turned out to be 0.4 of a gram of heroin and fentanyl adulterated with other unspecified agents.

Its discovery also triggered a search of the rest of the vehicle that turned up 4.6 grams of marijuana, a silver .22-calibre handgun plus ammunition and a .437 Erfurt 1892 revolver and box of .44-calibre bullets, culminating in 13 weapons-related charges being laid against Richards, including two counts of possessing firearms in contravention of a five-year weapons prohibition imposed on him in 2015.

He was also charged with five violations of bail conditions that forbid him possessing or using street drugs or having weapons or drug paraphernalia, as well as confining him to his residence; a breach of probation he received in Brockville in 2015, by failing to keep the peace; two counts of illegal drug and controlled substance possession, and resisting arrest — in addition to his initial arrest charges of drug impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident to escape civil or criminal liability.

Const. Matt Murphy, the patrol officer who initially located the damaged truck at 3:16 p.m., testified he found Richards seated in its driver’s seat, seatbelt on, his head lolling to the left. “It appeared he was sleeping,” he told Justice Tranmer.

He testified that he opened the driver’s side door to the cab, reasoning that if Richards woke and tried to put the vehicle in gear he’d be able to prevent it.

He said Richards stirred at the door’s movement, but “he was very groggy.”

Then, at some point after he’d revealed he was investigating a vehicle collision, he said Richards announced that he was not the driver.

He pointed toward the end of the driveway, according to Murphy, claimed he’d only been a passenger and indicated that was where the truck’s driver had gone.

Richards’ lawyer, Matt Hodgson, asked Murphy if he’d followed up on his client’s claim and searched the area for an alternate suspect.

Murphy told him he didn’t.

Later, when he was questioned about that decision by assistant Crown attorney Greg Skerkowski, the officer said the information police had by then was that the truck only had one occupant at the time of the collision: a male driver with a goatee. He said Richards matched that general description.

He also added that in his opinion the cluttered condition of the truck’s interior wouldn’t have accommodated a passenger.

Source: The Kingston Whig-Standard