10/15/2019 7:30:00 AM Prelim set in fatal hit-and-run case; bond modified to allow defendant to enter restaurants
Heather Schaefer and Jamie Taylor Of the River News
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 30 in the case of a 53-year-old Sugar Camp man accused of striking a motorcyclist on State Highway 17 Aug. 28 and leaving the scene. The motorcyclist, Sean Holtslander, 23, of St. Germain, died.
The defendant, Jeffrey M. Liebscher, was in Oneida County Circuit Court Monday afternoon for an adjourned initial appearance at which time Judge Patrick O'Melia scheduled a preliminary hearing.
At the preliminary hearing stage, the state must prove there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed at least one felony.
Also Monday, the court agreed to modify bond to allow Liebscher to enter restaurants, however he must submit to a breath test upon request of law enforcement. He is still prohibited from entering tavern premises where the primary business is selling alcohol, O'Melia noted.
The restaurant issue was raised by assistant district attorney Jillian Pfeiffer who requested a clarification of the conditions of Liebscher's $1,500 cash bond. She noted the bond included a requirement that the defendant not go upon tavern or restaurant premises where alcohol is served and asked that O'Melia specifically include Sugar Camp establishments Moondance and the White Stag Inn under that provision.
"I think that Mr. Liebscher should be able to go out to dinner," the defense attorney said. "Particularly to a place where the primary source of revenue is not the sale of alcohol, places like the White Stag or Moondance."
"This is not going to be over next week," he added.
"We will modify bond to allow him to go into restaurants," O'Melia ruled after a pause. "I don't want him going into taverns where the primary goal is... the sale of alcohol."
The judge also noted that members of the public will call law enforcement if Liebscher is seen in a restaurant.
"People are going to call if they see him in a restaurant having a cup of water," O'Melia said.
Liebscher is charged with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and hit and run resulting in death.
According to the criminal complaint, Liebscher struck Holtslander's motorcycle at approximately 10:15 p.m. Aug. 28 and fled the scene.
According to a report authored by detective sergeant Chad Wanta, the Chevy Silverado Liebscher was allegedly operating was located about 2 1/2 hours later, but Liebscher was not in it. Further investigation by detectives revealed that the truck, which was damaged, was located on a roadway that splits, with one fork going to Liebscher's mother's house and the other to Liebscher's residence.
Wanta and other officers went to Liebscher's residence, but nobody was there, the report states.
This set off an hours-long effort by law enforcement to make contact with Liebscher and learn more about his movements during the evening of Aug. 28. As part of the investigation, law enforcement made contact with a bartender who served Liebscher a drink and takeout food at a local establishment that evening.
Officers also made contact with Liebscher's mother and his brother, Brian, who was later charged with obstructing law enforcement. He is accused of failing to give truthful information about his brother's movements.
"When contacted on August 29, 2019 in the early morning hours, Brian did not report to law enforcement that Jeffrey had contacted Brian after the accident and that Brian had driven Jeffrey to Three Lakes after the accident," sheriff's captain Terri Hook wrote in a press release issued in late August announcing Brian Liebscher's arrest.
Brian Liebscher was also back in court Monday afternoon.
He entered a not guilty plea and had a pretrial conference scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 10.
It was after police met with Brian Liebscher in the hours after the accident that Jeffrey Liebscher called 9-1-1 to advise that his brother had contacted him to let him know police wanted to speak with him.
Liebscher was later located on a dock at a residence in Three Lakes. He invited officers into the residence to discuss the accident. Initially, he advised that he had been at the residence in Three Lakes since approximately 10 p.m. Aug. 28.
He then summarized his movements during the evening of Aug. 28, which included a stop at a friend's home where he sat around a campfire and consumed half of a mixed drink containing whiskey, according to the complaint.
After Liebscher finished his recitation of events, Wanta advised him that his story did not match up with other evidence collected and asked him if he wanted to correct any of the information he had provided.
At that point, Liebscher broke down and admitted to striking the motorcyclist, the complaint states.
"Jeffrey stated that after striking the motorcycle, he exited his vehicle and observed the operator on the ground and knew the individual was dead," the complaint states. "Jeffrey stated he panicked and didn't know what to do. Jeffrey stated he knew he was not impaired from consuming alcohol, but knew he had a couple of glasses of wine as well as half a glass of the mixed drink."
He went on to explain that he parked his vehicle on the family property and made contact with his brother, Brian. According to Jeffrey, the two went to the residence of Jeffrey's son for a brief period of time before Brian drove Jeffrey to the residence in Three Lakes, the complaint states.
Upset over the accident, Jeffrey told law enforcement he drank more alcohol while at the Three Lakes residence.
After he made this statement, Liebscher was taken into custody.
At Liebscher's initial appearance Aug. 30, Oneida County district attorney Michael Schiek noted that approximately 11 hours elapsed between when the accident occurred and when Liebscher called 9-1-1. As a result, the state lost the ability to accurately determine what Liebscher's blood alcohol level was at the time of the accident, he said.
Liebscher was not represented by counsel during that hearing but noted he was in the process of retaining attorney Cirilli.
He told the court he is a local homeowner and father for four children. He insisted that he would not abscond.
Judge Michael Bloom, who was presiding over the initial appearance, stated he has "a familiarity" with Liebscher and referred to him as a "relatively visible and well-known member of the Sugar Camp community."
He then announced he would be recusing himself from the case but before he did that he set bond at $1,500 cash and offered an unsolicited remark on the defendant's character. "I know him to be a good man," the judge said.
Following Bloom's recusal, the case was reassigned to Judge O'Melia, who is now presiding over both brothers' cases.
Brian Liebscher faces a maximum sentence of 9 months in jail if convicted of obstruction.
If convicted of both felony charges, Jeffrey Liebscher faces a maximum of 35 years in prison.
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