By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO February 17, 2004 Ever since the first vehicular manslaughter trial against Kenneth Newman, the 24-year-old driver who was at the wheel in a Swan Lake car crash that killed his bests friends fiancee on August 19, 2003, the defense has contended Newman and his friends took off in fear of their lives from a rock- and bottle-tossing mob at Kilcoins Tavern.
But in the expletive-rich second day of the second trial, a trio of potentially key witnesses refuted claims that a violent mob attacked Newmans small group and instead pointed the finger at the deceased 25-year-old Tabitha Joslin.
(The first trial ended in a mistrial after a juror admitted to visiting the scene of the fatal wreck on Route 55 and talking to his wife about the case, contrary to Sullivan County Court Judge Frank J. LaBudas oft-repeated instructions to the jury.)
Jennifer Pellman, 21, of Liberty, said she was there that fatal night last summer with a couple of friends out for a good time and a few drinks.
We danced for a little while and drank a few beers, she recalled under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Michael McGuire.
According to Pellman, she saw a fight erupt outside the bar, some drag racing and the bouncer punch a kid in the face.
After she went back inside, Pellman said her stack of quarters on the edge of a pool table had been moved, and a dispute started over who had jumped the waiting line.
Pellman, a student at Sullivan County Community College, told the jury that Joslin and her boyfriend (Billy Conklin Jr.) invited me to go outside and fight. . . . She was screaming, Let me go, I want to kill her. . . . Youre f---ing going to die!
She said Joslin was carried out of the bar in a bear hug by her boyfriend but continued to scream, You dont know who youre f---ing messing with. I want to get them. I want to f---ing kill them!
Marissa Rivera of Liberty, a friend of Pellmans visiting from Mercy College in Westchester, said Joslin pushed her inside the bar.
After she pushed me, I got up and punched her in the face, said Rivera. She was acting very out of control and hungry to fight . . . calling me a f---ing b----.
According to both witnesses, Joslin continued to scream expletives once the bouncer ordered everyone out of the bar, even after her companions tried to push her into Newmans 1997 Pontiac.
She was fighting them to get out, screaming, I want to fight them, recalled Rivera.
As the dispute in the parking lot began to turn ugly, Rivera said Conklin shoved and cursed her and was in turn punched by another man, saying, Dont you f---ing hit a girl!
I heard a lot of screaming back and forth, said Rivera.
In what may be pivotal testimony in a defense case based upon justification, both witnesses said they did not see anyone throw anything at Newmans vehicle, either in the parking lot or as the driver sped off along Route 55.
It was moving at high speed, she said. It skidded out of the parking lot really fast.
Seconds later and about a quarter-mile down the road, Joslin was dead and two passengers seriously injured.
Under questioning by ADA McGuire, the first two witnesses said they had seen no rocks, no bottles, no guns, no bats during the altercations.
In cross-examination by Newmans defense attorney Henri Shawn, he queried Pellmans description of the altercation inside the bar as a fight while on the stand, she said it was a commotion.
Was it your desire or intention to fight this girl [Joslin]? asked Shawn.
Im not a very big girl, and I dont fight very well, she replied.
The days third witness Vanessa Davis, 25, of Liberty is currently in the Sullivan County lockup serving a 10-month sentence for endangering the welfare of her children after her boyfriend was caught using cocaine in front of the kids.
There was about eight of us . . . for the Monday night drink specials, she recalled. I heard a bouncer say, Okay, thats it. Its a rap, the bars closed.
Davis said she got drunk, adding, It was the best night Id had in a long time.
According to Davis, she heard Joslin yell as she was being carried outside by Conklin: Get the f--- off me. Im going to beat this b----s ass!
Asked by Shawn to describe Newmans demeanor during the altercations, Davis replied, He seemed to be cool.
All three witnesses said they were on the opposite side of the tavern as the dispute came to an end.
The trial continues today.