A jury trial for a Fredericktown man accused of dragging a state trooper 20 feet with his truck began Tuesday.
Arnold J. Frankie, 63, of 165 Barney’s Run Road, is accused of dragging Trooper Heather Gonglik with his truck at the scene of a crash April 3 in Bentleyville. He faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and fleeing or attempting to elude police.
During opening statements in Washington County Court, Assistant District Attorney Leslie Ridge said Frankie put other drivers and Gonglik at risk when he failed to obey hand and verbal signals. Ridge said Gonglik is an eight-year member of the force and mother of two.
“(Gonglik) protects society and puts her safety in jeopardy,” she said. “The law should and does give her protection.”
Ridge said Frankie blatantly disobeyed numerous hand and verbal signals Gonglik gave him while she was directing traffic.
When Frankie did stop, Ridge said he told Gonglik he misunderstood her signals, but then took off.
In an attempt to avoid harm, Ridge said Gonglik grabbed onto Frankie’s truck and again commanded him to stop. Instead, Ridge said Frankie continued to push Gonglik’s arm out of the vehicle until she fell and struck her head.
Gonglik was taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital for treatment, but not before she chased Frankie down and took him into custody.
Frankie’s attorney, Noah Geary, said that while his client was wrong for leaving the scene, misunderstanding a hand signal is not a crime.
“He made a mistake,” Geary said.
Geary said Frankie, who is a diabetic, was suffering from low blood sugar at the time and that was a factor in the incident.
While he acknowledged that law enforcement officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis, Geary argued that Gonglik made a poor decision.
“She choose to start running alongside of the truck and grabbed on,” Geary said. “She should have gotten into her squad car and pulled him over.”
Gonglik said during her testimony that she experienced an array of emotions at the time, including fear for her own safety and for the safety of Frankie. She testified that Frankie attempted to push her arm from his vehicle at least three or four times, and at several points during his arrest laughed or shook his head.
Although she was treated and released from the hospital that day, Gonglik said she still experiences varying levels of pain daily in her back and neck. She receives epidural injections for the pain and has been placed on limited duty at work.
“I have pain every day,” Gonglik said during testimony. “It’s hard to care for two little kids. It puts me under a lot of stress. I’m unable to do things that I normally did.”
In addition to Gonglik’s testimony, the jury watched a video taken from Gonglik’s cruiser that showed the incident and included audio from Gonglik’s encounter with Frankie when he was arrested.
The jury also heard testimony from four other witnesses, including two members of Bentleyville Volunteer Fire Department.
Geary would not say whether his client will testify.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning, and the jury could get the case before the end of the day.