Man found guilty in drag-race crash that killed driver

Source: Reading Eagle

Author: Holly Herman

Date: 2000/07/14

A 20-year-old Alsace Township man was convicted Thursday in Berks County Court of homicide by vehicle in a drag-racing crash that killed a 20-year-old Oley Township man.

Shawn B. Collins of the first block of Silver Swallow Road also was convicted of recklessly endangering another person in the July 14, 2000, death of Michael Sipotz II of 218 Stitzer Road.

The jury of six men and six women acquitted Collins of involuntary manslaughter and simple assault. The jury deliberated for four hours and 45 minutes following a three-day trial before Judge Scott D. Keller. Collins remains free on $15,000 bail awaiting sentencing in July. A homicide-by-vehicle conviction carries a sentence of three months to a year in prison.

Sipotz parents, Darlene S. and Michael, said they were pleased with the verdict. "Nothing will ever bring Michael, my only son back," Darlene Sipotz said. The jury had a rough case.

"Young people should not playing games in cars," Michael Sipotz said. "a car is 4,000 pounds of machinery."

Assistant District Attorney Brian McDonnell said in his closing argument that Collins was racing a friend, David W. Dragan, on Route 73 in Oley Township when Dragan's car crashed head-on into a car driven by Sipotz.

"It was a race to prove whose car was faster," McDonnell said. "It resulted in the phone call that is every parent's worst nightmare.\"

A group of friends had been at the Oley Township home of Jason Rank, 20, when they decided at 10 p.m. to drive to Pottstown. Dragan, 19, said Collins accelerated his car so Dragan could not pass him when Dragan crashed into Sipotz's car.

Dragan, who was 17 at the time of the crash, has been charged as a juvenile with involuntary manslaughter and related charges. Dragan testified against Collins, and Collins' lawyer, Michael J. Cammarano of Reading, argued Dragan wanted to blame the accident on Collins.

"He wants to go back in juvenile court and lay the blame somewhere else," Cammarano said in his closing argument. "This accident happened solely because of the actions of David Dragan."

Russell W. Adams, assistant chief juvenile probation officer, testified earlier that prosecutors requested Dragan's disposition be delayed until after Collins' case.

Several passengers in Collins' car testified Collins accelerated when Dragan tried to pass him. McConnell said Collins wanted to prove that his new Nissan 300 ZX was faster than Dragan's red Chevrolet Lumina.

"Shawn Collins pressed his foot on the accelerator to see whose car was faster," McDonnell said. "The acceleration fairy didn't jump inside the engine."




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