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Robust defense forms in deadly crash case

by KEITH KINNAIRD
Hagadone News Network | December 24, 2020 1:00 AM

SPIRIT LAKE — A robust defense is taking shape in a Coeur d'Alene man's 2017 felony vehicular manslaughter case, court records show.

Idaho State Police said Jose Franco Sosa Jr. was northbound on Spirit Lake Cutoff Road near Peregrine Road when he drove a Subaru Legacy off the southbound shoulder, struck a series of mailboxes and overturned.

Teenage passenger Joseph T. Neumann was ejected during the rollover and was pronounced dead at the scene. Sosa had to be extricated from the wreckage and was airlifted from the scene, according to court documents. A toddler strapped into a child safety seat in the back of the vehicle appeared to escape serious injury.

Neumann was not wearing a seatbelt in the May 15, 2017, crash and died of blunt force head trauma and other internal injuries, a trooper's affidavit said.

While being treated in the intensive-care unit at Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene, Sosa was handcuffed to a bed and being held under emergency detention because officials were uncertain how Sosa would react upon learning the teen was fatally injured in the crash, court documents indicate.

"He admitted driving the vehicle," Idaho Department of Correction Probation & Parole Officer Haley Rose testified during a preliminary hearing in October.

Amphetamine and the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis were later found in Sosa's system, although Rose testified she did not ask Sosa if he was intoxicated and inquired merely whether he recalled the crash, according to the hearing transcript.

Sosa, Rose recalled, was upset upon hearing that Neumann was killed in the crash.

However, under cross-examination Rose admitted Sosa had not been read his Miranda rights.

Public Defender Luke Hagelberg argues any incriminating statements his client made to Rose should be suppressed because he had not been advised of his rights, nor did he sign a statement indicating he was waiving those rights.

"Because Rose did not inform him of his right to remain silent prior to questioning him, the custodial interrogation is a violation of Defendant's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Thus, all incriminating statements made by Sosa during the exchange must be suppressed," Hagelberg said in a motion to keep jurors from hearing those remarks when the case goes to trial.

The motion was originally set to be argued this month, but it was postponed until Jan. 12, 2021, court records indicate. The defense has also advised the state they intend to call an expert witness to testify on Sosa's behalf when the case goes before a jury.

Sosa pleaded not guilty to the felony charge, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Sosa, 59, is currently serving a five- to 10-year prison term in a felony driving under the influence case in Kootenai County dating back to 2010. He is also serving concurrent sentences for a 2015 felony eluding charge and a 2016 felony drug possession charge, according to Idaho's iCourt database. He becomes eligible for parole in 2021.

Sosa is being held at the Idaho State Correctional Center near Boise, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com or followed on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.