Exclusive: Doctor says driver drug free in trooper's death

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The driver accused of being high on drugs when his car struck an Ohio state trooper tested “negative for all drugs of abuse,” according to a doctor who examined him the day after the fatal crash.

Joshua Gaspar, 37, is in the Cuyahoga County Jail charged with aggravated vehicular homicide for the Sept. 14 death of Trooper Kenneth Velez.

The trooper was outside his cruiser running radar on the left berm of Interstate 90 near the Cleveland-Lakewood border when Gaspar’s car swerved to miss a slowing vehicle.

Gaspar told investigators at the scene that he had taken his prescribed dose of methadone earlier that day. He was given a field sobriety test at the scene and was arrested afterward.

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Defense attorney Jon Sinn said Gaspar was not under the influence on any drugs and test results prove his contention.

“Josh is clean. Josh is sober. Josh got into an accident and that can happen to anyone,” Sinn said. “While our hearts go out to the trooper, at the end of the day, it’s not right to penalize Josh for something that's nothing more than a tragic, tragic accident.”

Gaspar was first prescribed methadone three years ago as part of his treatment for an addiction to painkillers, Sinn said. Since then, he said, Gaspar has been tested weekly and has never tested positive for any illegal substance.

Channel 3 News has obtained a copy of the Sept. 19 letter from Dr. Richard DeFranco, who examined Gaspar a day after the crash.

“[Gaspar] was understandably upset….He was not intoxicated,” DeFranco wrote.

He added that Gaspar was tested for illegal drugs, as usual, during the Sept. 15 visit.

“…and this drug screen was negative for all drugs of abuse tested for. It was positive only for his therapeutic dose of methadone,” the doctor concluded.

DeFranco added that Gaspar is prescribed 70 mg of methadone, a prescription drug used to combat withdrawal symptoms. He said patients on methadone are not impaired. He added that studies have shown methadone causes no impairment to drivers.

“Patients on methadone do not feel high and are not intoxicated,” he wrote.

State troopers are investigating their colleague’s death. A department spokesman Monday declined comment, citing the on-going investigation.

Sinn said he intends to present the doctor’s report in Cleveland Municipal Court on Tuesday and ask for a lower bond that would allow Gaspar to leave jail to await trial. Gaspar’s bond was set earlier at $500,000. He faces 11 years in prison, if convicted.

“In some ways, Josh feels responsible because he was behind the wheel that day, but in other ways he knows there’s nothing he could’ve done to avoid this accident,” Sinn said.