Crime

Ex-firefighter found guilty on all counts in Beer Trappe hit-and-run; jury recommends 10-year sentence

Jarad McCargo testified for about 30 minutes Thursday during his trial in Fayette Circuit Court. McCargo was accused of assault and other charges in connection with a 2014  hit-and-run crash that resulted in the amputation of a leg from Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino. Photo taken Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff

gkocher1@herald-leader.com
Jarad McCargo testified for about 30 minutes Thursday during his trial in Fayette Circuit Court. McCargo was accused of assault and other charges in connection with a 2014 hit-and-run crash that resulted in the amputation of a leg from Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino. Photo taken Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff gkocher1@herald-leader.com Lexington Herald-Leader

A Fayette Circuit Court jury on Thursday found former Lexington firefighter Jarad McCargo guilty on all counts, including first-degree assault, in connection with a 2014 hit-and-run crash that seriously injured an Army National Guard captain.

The jury, which deliberated more than three hours, also found McCargo guilty of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, criminal mischief, two counts of misdemeanor assault, and failure to maintain required insurance.

The jury recommended a sentence of 10 years in prison; McCargo will be eligible for parole in 81/2 years. Judge Kimberly Bunnell scheduled final sentencing for Nov. 6.

The jury heard an audio recording in which McCargo told police that he hit the gas rather than the brakes as he put into reverse his wife's Ford Expedition in an attempt to parallel park in front of The Beer Trappe on Euclid Avenue. The vehicle lurched backward, hitting Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino and causing $26,000 in damage to the bar.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Rawl Kazee only disputed the first-degree assault charge, arguing that parallel parking an SUV does not rise to the level of the offense's definition of "manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."

Kazee had argued for a lesser conviction of second-degree assault punishable by five to 10 years in prison. Kazee did not dispute McCargo's guilt on all other counts.

McCargo, 37, testified that he initially didn't know anyone had been injured in the collision into the bar's right front corner.

"I thought I had hit a car, a pole," McCargo said.

Once police told him someone had been injured, McCargo said he was "devastated."

Espino, the most seriously injured of the three people hurt, was talking on a cell phone outside The Beer Trappe at the time of the crash. He underwent multiple surgeries including amputation of his left leg.

Under questioning from defense attorney Rawl Kazee, McCargo acknowledged leaving after the accident.

"In just fear, instinct, I drove off," McCargo said.

Under cross-examination from assistant commonwealth's attorney Dan Laren, McCargo again admitted fleeing and not notifying anyone or stopping to see the damage.

"You didn't notify anybody?" Laren asked.

"No, sir," McCargo said.

McCargo was on the witness stand for about 30 minutes. He testified that he had not seen Espino until the trial began Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, McCargo's wife, Denise, testified that her husband had been helping her parallel park when the accident occurred.

Denise McCargo, who works for the Fayette County sheriff's office in court services, said she and her husband had been out that night for their first date night in a long time.

The couple first went to a dance club called Jazzy G's, Denise McCargo said. The designated driver, she had taken a few sips of a margarita before giving it to her husband.

Jarad McCargo drank the rest of that margarita and one other before they left the club for the Beer Trappe.

"We were having a good night," Denise McCargo said.

They found a parking spot in front of the Beer Trappe, Denise McCargo testified.

Not good at parallel parking, she switched seats with her husband so he could park, she said.

Shortly after, she said, she heard a crash.

"It all just happened so fast," she said. "Then he took off."

Denise McCargo said she didn't know what they'd hit, and she kept telling her husband that they had to turn around and see if anyone had been hurt.

"I just said, 'Baby, we've got to go back,'" she said.

Jarad McCargo didn't acknowledge any of her questions, Denise McCargo said.

She said she grabbed the gear shift and tried to bring the SUV to a stop.

When the vehicle rocked to a partial stop, she jumped from the vehicle, Denise McCargo said. Her husband drove away.

After figuring out where she was, she walked back to the Beer Trappe, where she saw the damaged building.

She also talked to police.

Espino, 44, was severely injured in the crash. He didn't leave the hospital for 16 weeks.

Also Thursday, prosecutors showed pictures of blood stains and crumpled chairs that were found in front of the Beer Trappe.

Jarad McCargo was fired from the Lexington Fire Department, where he had been a probationary, or new, firefighter.

Jarad McCargo's blood alcohol level was 0.122, above the legal limit of 0.08.

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