BALLSTON SPA – A local high school football coach who was sidelined by a drunken driving arrest was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge after prosecutors said they determined the alcohol breath test he allegedly failed would not have been admissible as evidence.
In a brief statement released Tuesday, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said other “difficulties in proof” that motivated her decision to offer a plea deal to Jason Ohnsman that allowed him to plead guilty to driving with ability impaired, a violation until the misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge Ohnsman faced when village police arrested him last month.
Heggen offered no further description of the “difficulties” in the case and did not explain why the breathalyzer test failed to pass legal muster.
Ohnsman’s arrest on a DWI charge Saturday, Oct. 19, led the Ballston Spa Central School District to put him on leave from his coaching duties.
He was arrested during a traffic stop around 7 p.m. on Spring Street in Ballston Spa. An officer smelled alcohol and administered a breathalyzer test, which showed Ohnsman’s blood alcohol content as higher than .08, police said at the time.
It was Ohnsman’s second DWI arrest in the past five years and the second to be pleaded down to driving with ability impaired. By entering a plea to the DWAI charge, Ohnsman will be spared from facing a felony if he is charged with driving while intoxicated at any time over the next decade. Driving while intoxicated charges are automatically upped to a felony DWI if there is a prior DWI conviction on the driver’s records over the past 10 years.
Court records in Saratoga Springs show Ohnsman was arrested on a DWI charge on Nov. 19, 2014 after he rolled through a stop sign in Saratoga Springs. Ohnsman, who was 24 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to DWAI on Dec. 9, 2014.
After that plea, Ohnsman’s driver’s license was suspended for 90 days and he was ordered to pay more than $550 in fines and court surcharges.
District Superintendent Ken Slentz put Ohnsman on leave from the football team hours after his second arrest. Assistant Coach Greg O’Connor took over head coaching responsibilities and coached the team in the playoffs.
District officials have declined to discuss the previous drunken driving case or whether Ohnsman disclosed the earlier arrest.
“These are personnel matters that we cannot discuss,” Superintendent Ken Slentz said last month.
After Ohsman’s guilty plea in the current case, Justice Michael Morrissey ordered Ohnsman to pay $660 in fines and serve 50 hours of community service. He’ll also lose his driver’s license for 90 days and attend a victim impact panel where other drivers, victims, and families of the death discuss the horror of alcohol-related crashes.