Poland man pleads guilty in drunk driving crash that killed passenger

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Attorneys are recommending John Wardle, 32, spend four years in prison

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Poland man charged in a 2019 drunken-driving accident that killed a man will be sentenced in May after guilty pleas Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Attorneys are recommending John Wardle, 32, spend four years in prison after entering guilty pleas before Judge Anthony Donofrio to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, a third degree felony and vandalism, a fourth degree felony, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an unclassified misdemeanor.

Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. May 5.

Wardle was charged in a July 8, 2019 crash that killed Mohammad Musleh, 28, of Youngstown.

State troopers with the Canfield Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Wardle was driving a car on state Route 164 in Beaver Township when he lost control of his car while trying to pass another car.

Wardle’s car flipped, ejecting Musleh, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators said Wardle was drunk at the time of the accident. The vandalism charge came when Wardle damaged the back of a cruiser after he was detained by troopers at the accident scene by kicking and banging his head.

Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Trapp said the plea came after talks with troopers, defense counsel and Musleh’s attorney, who all agreed with the plea and sentence.

As part of his sentence, Wardle must undergo mandatory substance abuse counseling and also forfeit his driver’s license from two to 12 years.

Wardle has been undergoing substance abuse counseling since November 2019 and intends on continuing regardless of a court order, said one of his attorneys, Kevin Daley.

Another attorney, Mark Hanni, told the judge via Zoom that Wardle is very sorry for what happened.

“I’ve never had a defendant be more remorseful,” Hanni said.

Wardle has been free on $15,000 bond since his arraignment. He remains free on bond until his sentencing.

Wardle was in tears at times during the plea hearing.

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