Charges dismissed in felony vehicular aggravated assault case

Charges against a Bellefonte man were dismissed after a preliminary hearing Wednesday at the Centre County Courthouse.

Paul Lenker III, 28, was charged Oct. 9 with a felony count of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, after arraignment by District Judge Carmine Prestia, according to court documents. The charges stemmed from a June 25 incident in downtown State College.

According to the complaint filed by State College police on Sept. 19, officers responded to a vehicle crash in which a female had been injured. Lenker allegedly confirmed he was the one driving the car and was unaware he had “hopped the curb in reverse and crashed into a utility pole.”

At the same time, Lenker allegedly backed his vehicle over the woman’s leg, police said, causing a “severe” fracture. Lenker was observed with the odor of alcohol on his person, and subsequently failed a field sobriety test and breath test.

During Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, a parking lot attendant testified to seeing the event shortly after it happened, saying he heard a woman screaming in pain and saw a group of individuals as well as Lenker and the woman standing near the car. One of the individuals appeared to try to hand money to Lenker, and the attendant testified that an agitated member of the group punched Lenker in the face.

The group fled before police arrived, he testified.

A State College police officer testified that there was no group of people at the scene when he arrived, but was informed about the group when he spoke with the witness. He also testified that Lenker admitted to driving over the woman.

The officer also testified that when he visited the woman in the hospital a short time later to get her statement, she indicated the individuals who fled the scene were to blame.

Lenker’s attorney argued that neither the witness nor the police officer had seen the incident unfold, suggesting that the group that fled could hold responsibility. The attorney also questioned why the information about the group wasn’t included in the criminal complaint, or why the officer didn’t investigate who these individuals might be.

District Judge Steven Lachman ruled that while the commonwealth established that Lenker was the driver and he was intoxicated, the District Attorney’s Office had not established negligence was an aspect in the crash, dismissing the case.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews