Food truck driver in fatal crash seeks new venue, exclusion of video

LEESBURG, Va. — The food truck driver charged with involuntary manslaughter in the crash that killed a mother of three last year says he cannot get a fair trial in Loudoun County.

In court motions, the attorney for Tony Steven Dane, who is being held without bond in the death of 39-year-old Erin Kaplan, says pretrial publicity of the case has made it impossible for a local jury to be impartial.

Dane’s lawyers are asking the court to rule inadmissible as evidence video showing Dane’s Great American Hamburger truck moments before the crash speeding by a school bus stopped on Watson Road as children disembark.

Dane’s attorney argues the video is irrelevant.

“The driver of the (food truck) is not visible on the video provided,” wrote Adam Pouilliard, assistant public defender. “The video does not depict either images or audio of the subsequent car crash.”

In addition to involuntary manslaughter, Dane is charged with reckless driving, driving without a license or insurance, and failing to have the food truck inspected.

Dane told police brakes on his converted 2000 Thomas school bus failed before the crash, and he was unable to stop before slamming into Kaplan’s station wagon as she drove north on Evergreen Mill Road.

“At a minimum, speeding past a school bus which is letting off passengers in violation of the illuminated stop signs provides evidence of reckless driving,” wrote assistant commonwealth’s attorney Ryan Perry. “This video shows (Dane’s) operation of this vehicle, and demonstrates its lack of fitness to be on the road.”

In its motion for change of venue, the defense said news coverage of the fatal crash has been extensive, and included that Dane was already on a $42,000 bond for extortion and wiretapping charges in Nevada at the time of the Loudoun County crash.

“As a result of such publicity, the defendant could not receive a fair trial as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The Sixth Amendment guarantees a fair jury trial; the 14th, due process.

Seven of those Nevada charges were eventually dropped.

“Every homicide which has been charged in Loudoun County over the past 10 years has received coverage from numerous media outlets,” countered prosecutor Perry. “Were this enough (to warrant a change of venue) no homicide case could ever proceed in this jurisdiction.”

Dane’s trial is scheduled to begin March 19 in Loudoun County Circuit Court.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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