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DUI driver jailed for bail violation

A Scott Twp. man awaiting sentencing for a fatal DUI crash was thrown in jail Friday after a judge ruled he violated his bail conditions by driving. Brandon Vansplinter, 23, took the stand and denied driving, but a police officer said he had evidence the man was lying. Last year, Mr. Vansplinter crashed his Jeep Cherokee into the back of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 in South Abington Twp. Tests showed Mr. Vansplinter had heroin and Xanax in his blood. His passenger, Carly Otto, 26, of Dalton, died in the wreck. In September, Mr. Vansplinter pleaded guilty to DUI and homicide by vehicle while DUI. The second charge carries a minimum of three years in prison. On Oct. 12, the victim’s sister, Alexandra Otto, reported to 911 that Mr. Vansplinter was driving in Jermyn, according to the incident report. Officers located the Hyundai sedan reported by the caller and followed it to a house at 355 Washington Ave. in Jermyn. A man wearing a dark sweatshirt with the hood up, concealing his face, exited the Jeep and walked into the house, Jermyn police said. When the officers knocked at the door, Christopher Frisbie and Mr. Vansplinter, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, greeted them, police said. Mr. Frisbie initially said he was the one behind the wheel of the Hyundai, but later told police that Mr. Vansplinter asked him to cover for him, police said. He gave the officer a written statement saying Mr. Vansplinter was driving. Investigators obtained a phone record that showed the defendant called Mr. Frisbie shortly after the initial 911 call, said Deputy District Attorney Brian Gallagher, who is prosecuting the case. At a bail hearing Wednesday, Mr. Frisbie pleaded the fifth amendment and refused to testify against Mr. Vansplinter, Mr. Gallagher said. Mr. Vansplinter’s attorney, Corey Kolcharno, said the lead officer in the case, Patrolman Dane Sorensen, never testified that he saw the defendant actually driving the vehicle, but rather “pieced together” circumstantial evidence. Judge Vito Geroulo ruled the evidence and the credibility of the officer outweighed the credibility of the defendant. Deputies cuffed Mr. Vansplinter and took him to Lackawanna County Prison. Mr. Vansplinter has been “heavily involved” in substance abuse treatment since the crash, said Mr. Kolcharno, who added “his heart is breaking” over the death of his friend. Judge Geroulo likely will sentence Mr. Vansplinter in December, Mr. Gallagher said.
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