LISBON — During a brief hearing before a jury trial began against Donald E. White Tuesday morning, Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Bickerton denied a defense motion to suppress a statement made by the then hospitalized defendant in front of deputies last week.
Defense attorney James Wise had filed the motion to suppress last week, claiming the defendant was in custody and wasn’t advised of his rights against self-incrimination or his right to an attorney before the recording by the deputy.
Wise also filed a motion to continue the trial, which was also denied, noting that his client needed a specialized breathing machine that the jail didn’t have at the time and was in the hospital due to a drop in his oxygen level.
Bickerton said she had been following the developments and learned White was released from the hospital Friday and even spoke to the county jail warden who assured that the equipment was in place.
White used the oxygen machine during the hearing and during the first day of his trial for aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, two charges of failure to stop after an accident, one a second-degree felony and the other a third-degree felony, and possession of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony.
White is accused of striking Aidan Wollman with his truck and causing his death while the Columbiana eighth grader was riding his bicycle accompanied by another boy along state Route 164 on Oct. 23, 2021. The pickup truck allegedly driven by White left the scene and was later found abandoned with damage. The cocaine charge stemmed from Oct. 24, 2021, the day after the alleged hit and run.
Deputy Luke Skidmore of the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office testified during the hearing that he was present in the hospital room with White and another deputy when White started talking about the accident.
During questioning by county Assistant Prosecutor Steve Yacovone, Skidmore said he wasn’t involved in the case and wasn’t questioning White. He was there strictly to keep him in custody. He said White just started talking so he activated the recorder on his phone. He didn’t tell White that he was recording.
Wise asked if White was going in and out of consciousness at the time, but Skidmore said he was fully awake. He wasn’t aware what medications he was on. Bickerton asked if he was lying down or sitting up and Skidmore said the bed was raised up. He also said his eyes were open.
Bickerton found that the defendant made an unsolicited spontaneous statement and that doesn’t require a reading of the rights.
She also denied the motion to sever the cocaine charge from the case, saying the charge was unrelated to a previous motion regarding blood evidence.
Once the trial began, Skidmore testified in front of the jury about the unsolicited statement by White, who said he thought a white pickup struck the child and that he ran over the bicycle after that.
Regarding a copy of the recorded statement, Wise questioned whether Skidmore had listened to it and could verify that it’s the same recording. He had not listened to the copy. Yacovone then asked if he could verify it if he had the chance to listen to a portion of the recording, which Skidmore said yes.
When Yacovone asked the court to allow Skidmore to listen to the recording, outside of the jury, Wise objected and both attorneys talked with the judge briefly. Skidmore was permitted to listen to the recording and then verified it was the same recording. The recording was entered into evidence.