LANCASTER, NH – Truck driver Volodomyr Zhukovskyy was acquitted Tuesday of all charges related to the deaths of seven motorcyclists three years ago, but he likely won’t see freedom any time soon.
Zhukovskyy, 26, a Ukraine citizen who lived in West Springfield, Mass., spent three years in jail awaiting trial in the June 21, 2019, Randolph crash that killed seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club.
After the jury announced not guilty verdicts on all 15 charges in Coos County Superior Court, Zhukovskyy was taken into custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While Zhukovskyy’s family praised the jury, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General John Formella caused controversy by criticizing the verdicts.
“Mr. Zhukovskyy should have been found guilty of the charges in this case and held responsible for causing seven deaths and numerous injuries,” Formella said.
Sununu said: “The Fallen Seven did not receive justice today, and that is an absolute tragedy.”
Robin Melone, president of NH Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, called their statements “irresponsible, dangerous, disrespectful to the jurors and damaging to the integrity of the criminal legal system.”
In June 2019, ICE issued an immigration detainer with the Coos County Jail in West Stewartstown for Zhukovskyy, according to a news release from ICE.
“Zhukovskyy has an extensive criminal history including three prior convictions of charges that included possession of cocaine and heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under suspension, furnishing false information to an officer and larceny,” said ICE spokesman John Mohan.
Zhukovskyy was taken into ICE custody at the Grafton County Jail in North Haverhill Tuesday and was served a Notice to Appear.
“He is in ICE custody pending his appearance before an immigration judge,” Mohan said. It was unknown where Zhukovskyy was being held last night.
ICE lodges detainers on individuals who have been arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable noncitizens.
Those placed into removal proceedings receive due process from federal immigration judges in the immigration courts.
Zhukovskyy’s family, some of whom attended the 12-day trial, told the Associated Press they were grateful to God, the court and the defense attorneys for an “honest and fair trial.”
“Our family expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends affected by this tragedy,” the family told AP, describing Zhukovskyy as a “very honest and kind man. He would never have done anything to hurt anyone.”
During closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Scott Chase blamed Zhukovskyy for the crash. Throughout the trial, prosecutors pointed to the drugs including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl Zhukovskyy took before going to work the morning of the crash, but were unable to prove the effects of the drugs caused the crash.
“This isn’t a mystery. This isn’t a who-done-it,” Chase told jurors.
Defense Attorney Jay Duguay said: “(Jarhead) Al Mazza caused this accident. Volodymyr Zhukovskyy is not guilty.” The evidence in the state’s case does not add up to the charges against Zhukovskyy, Duguay said.
Duguay said the state’s own crash experts found Zhukovskyy did not cross the centerline just before the crash. Medical records show Mazza, who was the lead motorcyclist, had a .135 blood alcohol content percentage. The legal limit is .08.
Along with Mazza, the crash killed Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Mass.
According to the testimony, Zhukovskyy got up the morning of the crash, used heroin, fentanyl and cocaine before starting work at 8 a.m., driving to Albany, N.Y., to pick up a car for the Massachusetts transportation company where he worked.
Zhukovskyy picked up the car in New York around 10:30 that morning and headed for the Berlin City Auto dealership in Gorham. After delivering the car around 5:30 p.m. Zhukovskyy started driving his truck and trailer on Route 2. He told police that he looked away for a moment when he reached for a drink bottle, taking his eyes off the road just before the crash.
Testimony during the trial described the crash scene as looking like a war zone.