Opening statements begin in retrial over state trooper's death
ST. CHARLES - Serghei Comerzan's second trial in as many years began Monday, though the main charge he faces was reduced on Friday.
Comerzan is charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper James Bava, who died while chasing Comerzan in Audrain County in 2015. Prosecutors initially charged Comerzan with murder.
Trooper Bava "met a motorcycle," headed west, according to his call-in of the event, just before his death, traveling at a high rate of speed of Route FF in Audrain County on the morning of August 28, 2015. Bava, who was traveling east at the time, turned around and reached nearly 140 miles per hour, according to police vehicle-monitoring data received from his wrecked car, before losing control and crashing his car off the road.
Comerzan's attorneys, Charlie and John James, argued that if Bava was even pursuing Comerzan, there was no way for their client to know (or to reasonably have known) that he needed to stop.
Route FF has five marked hills in between where Bava reportedly saw Comerzan's bike, initially, and where Bava crashed, minutes later. In the original trial, state prosecutors argued that there was at least a seven-to-14 second window where Comerzan could have seen Bava's patrol car chasing him.
The original case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to conclusively reach a verdict on either the resisting arrest or second-degree murder charges, after two days of deliberation.
Comerzan's attorney filed a motion for an acquittal after that trial concluded, arguing the "defendant is entitled to a judgment of acquittal, and the state is barred by double jeopardy from retrying this case."
Comerzan rejected a plea deal in his pre-trial conference on February 1.