BY STACI WILSON
At the sentencing hearing for the man responsible in the deadly crash that claimed his friend’s life, President Judge Jason Legg acknowledged that no punishment would be enough from the perspective of the family.
With that Jonathan Yacinovich was sentenced to serve 9 to 23-1/2 months in the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility for homicide by motor vehicle in the February 2016 death of Andrew Mazza.
The jail time will be followed by five years probation and he was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. He also received a concurrent sentence of 2 days to 6 months for driving under the influence.
On Feb. 21, 2016, a 2002 Ford Taurus driven by Yacinovich with two passengers inside left the road and turned on its roof in five feet of water in a creek just before 3 a.m. on Round Pond Road, Gibson Twp.
Police described the road as icy and said all four tires on Yacinovich’s car were bald. Police stated that Yacinovich’s blood alcohol content was .093%, well over the .02% limit for a minor.
Mazza died by drowning and hypothermia. No alcohol was found in his system.
Besides Mazza, a female passenger who had asked for a ride from a party was also trapped in the car as Yacinovich went for help. Meanwhile, Mazza is credited with helping save the woman’s life by elevating his legs so the female passenger could get air.
Yacinovich initially told investigators that Mazza was driving. Yacinovich told police he drove Mazza to a party in a field in the South Canaan area of Wayne County at about 6 p.m. As the two left the part at about midnight the female passenger asked for a ride. The female passenger later told investigators that she was in the front passenger seat with Mazza in the back and Yacinovich driving.
The sentence by Judge was handed down by the court following emotional testimony from Mazza’s father, stepmother and sisters. On the stand, family members took issue with Yacinovich’s lie to police about Mazza being behind the wheel.
Andrew’s father, Phillip Mazza said, “How do you measure the impact of grief in regards to your child? Especially when someone had the chance to save him but just left.”
“I know of nothing to accurately measure the impact of the loss of my son. It is the darkest black you’ve ever seen,” he continued.
Phillip Mazza also brought up a 2014 death in Wayne County Yacinovich had been charged in connection with. Those charges were dropped just 10 days prior to Mazza’s death.
“I his limited years, he’s been attached to two deaths,” Phillip Mazza told the court. “I have a hard time not seeing that as a coincidence.”
He asked the judge to hand down the maximum sentence. “Not for me, but for Andrew who deserved to be helped from the car; and to spare the next person, chancing to become number three – to spare the next family from writing like I am.”
Yacinovich’s grandfather, Robert Stanton, also took the stand on behalf of his grandson, offering an apology to the Mazza family. “I can’t imagine what you are going through,” he said, and admitted hearing the family speak was hard for him.
He told the court that Yacinovich was remorseful and that his grandson had been handed a life sentence with the death of his friend. “It happened on his birthday. He will carry that with him for the rest of his life,” Stanton said, and asked the court to show mercy to his grandson.
Yacinovich also offered his apology to Andrew Mazza’s family and friends. “Your pain is much worse than mine,” he said. “Me and Andrew were very close friends. I know some of you don’t believe that. I am truly, truly sorry.”
He told the court he would accept any punishment handed down. “I know I did wrong,” he said.
District Attorney Marion O’Malley said Yacinovich went for help following the crash but did not return to the scene to render aid. “He left them in the cold, murky water.”
A motion to consider work release for Yacinovich was denied by the court.
Judge Legg told Yacinovich to “serve the memory of his friend” by giving back to the community. “Obviously, your friend did not get a second chance, you did. Make the most of that.”
Mazza was a 2011 graduate of Lakeland High School and received a degree in Machine Tool Technology from the Lackawanna County Career and Technology Center. Mazza was a member of the Operating Engineers Union, Local 542.
As a result of his actions, friends and community members decided to establish the Andrew C. Mazza Memorial Health Center, in Greenfield Twp.
This new health center will be part of the NEPA Community Health Care system which currently provides primary care and behavioral health in Susquehanna Depot, Susquehanna Community School District, Elk Lake School District, Hallstead, and Montrose.