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Teen Driver Pleads Guilty in Deadly Crash | News

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Teen Driver Pleads Guilty in Deadly Crash

A 17 year old charged with causing a crash that killed a toddler in May pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to charges connected to the crash.

David Ranakoski of Scranton pleaded guilty in Lackawanna County Court to homicide by vehicle, possession of marijuana and driving under the influence.

The car Ranakoski was driving slammed into the back of a Jeep on Dark Region Road in Ransom Township in May of this year.

Twenty-two-month-old Cole Hazleton was in that Jeep and died after the vehicle burst into flames.

"He got a plea today, he got a favor today, he got a bargain today," said Reginald Clark, Hazleton's grandfather.

Cole Hazleton's family wants Ranakoski to be charged with homicide by motor vehicle while D. U. I., a charge that carries a mandatory minimum of 3 years behind bars.

The prosecutor in this case said that charge does not apply. Robert Klein said he cannot prove exactly what caused Ranakoski to crash: a winding road, speeding, distraction, or the marijuana in his system.

"If a charge is not there, I'm bound by professional ethics not to bring forth the charge that I do not feel can be established and proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and I do not feel we can prove that charge," said Deputy D.A. Klein.

When he is sentenced, David Ranakoski faces up to 8 and a half years behind bars.

The D. U. I. charge he pleaded to carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 72 hours behind bars; not the three years Cole Hazleton's family wanted.

"No, this is not a happy day, no we’re not happy. All this did was just bring up a bunch of…we wasted three months when he was originally in court to do what? Come back and open this can of worms again?" said Reginald Clark.

"They are trying to deal with such a loss and you know we just cannot give them the answers that they need or the relief they need. We just cannot make them whole," said Klein.


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