A plea agreement has been reached in a case involving a Philadelphia woman who struck a Morrisville man with her minivan as he walked his dog near the New Hope-Lambertville Bridge on Feb. 1.
Georgina Papa, 18, had been charged with causing an accident involving injury while not licensed, and aggravated assault by vehicle — both felonies — along with several lesser offenses. Only the first felony will be pursued under the deal, along with two summary charges — driving without a license and driving on the sidewalk — following a preliminary hearing in the case Thursday under Judge Maggie Snow.
The prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Robert James, said he didn’t believe pursuing the aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges was warranted.
“In our opinion, she was an unlicensed driver, she had an expired learner’s permit, she was an inexperienced driver who made the turn way too wide and tried to avoid a vehicle turning left in her direction and overcompensated, and hit the gas instead of the brakes,” he explained. “It was more negligent than reckless.”
Charges against the driver’s mother, Nancy Raquel Papa, 48, of Philadelphia, who was a passenger in the minivan along with two of her younger children, have also been dropped. She had been accused of giving false information to the police and permitting her daughter to drive without a license, both considered summary offenses.
Paul Stancker, 53, who has been recovering from severe injuries sustained when he was struck by the vehicle, attended Thursday’s hearing. His dog “Loki” was not hurt in the incident.
Papa had been driving north on South Main Street in a 2014 Toyota Sienna when she turned right onto East Bridge Street, police said. She drove over the curb, striking a garbage can, then hit Stancker head-on as he walked west on the sidewalk.
The impact of the collision forced Stancker onto the hood and windshield of the minivan, where he was carried several feet before the vehicle struck a utility pole, sending him flying another 10 feet onto the sidewalk, according to police. He suffered skull, facial, and rib fractures, along with severe bleeding around his brain.
“Paul has a TBI [traumatic brain injury] which affects his day-to-day life,” said his girlfriend Barbara (last name omitted for privacy). “While he is no longer in rehab and has returned to work, he still has loss of words, memory and is easily fatigued.”
Stancker is grateful that the authorities have pursued charges against Papa aggressively.
“Paul wants her to learn this wasn’t an “accident” — it was a choice made by her and her mother to drive unlicensed and inexperienced,” said girlfriend Barbara, who added that Stancker is thankful to police, EMTs and citizens at the scene who helped him and his dog.
Papa’s attorney, Robert Madden, said his client is remorseful.
“She was a young girl with a driver’s permit, and she made a mistake,” he said.
Stancker’s girlfriend said the tragedy will not keep him from returning to New Hope.
“Paul loves New Hope, its people, and will not let this incident change his willingness to visit as often as he can,” she said.
A formal arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 14, and the case is expected to wrap up early next year.