The 28-year-old who was driving the trash truck that struck and killed a bicyclist in Center City in 2017 was ordered on Wednesday to stand trial in the death.
At a preliminary hearing, Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden ordered Jorge Fretts of Philadelphia tried on all counts, including homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and recklessly endangering another person in the death of pastry chef Emily Fredricks, 24.
If found guilty, Fretts, who is free on bail, faces a maximum of five years in prison.
In making his decision, Hayden cited Fretts’ failure to obey a yield-to-bicyclists sign and use a turn signal.
“Just for the record,” he said, “I once worked for the largest solid-waste disposal company in the country, so I know these trucks well.”
According to video from inside the cab of the privately owned truck shown during the hearing, and testimony from Police Officer Mark Eib, the incident happened Nov. 28, 2017, during rush hour on a busy Tuesday morning at 11th and Spruce Streets.
Fretts, wearing a red baseball cap and blue jumpsuit, was making a right turn from Spruce onto 11th when he crossed into a bicycle lane and hit Fredricks.
A split second before impact, both Fretts and a passenger in the truck saw the biker and yelled in unison, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
At issue was whether Fretts used a turn signal, obeyed a yield-to-bicyclists sign, checked his mirrors before turning, and was distracted by a smartphone earbud in his right ear.
Defense attorney David S. Bahuriak said Fretts looked both ways, checking the road before turning. He argued that it was not a crime to have an earbud in one ear while driving and that it was impossible to tell from the evidence whether the device was on or off. He said Fretts had to contend with the truck’s multiple blind spots.
“Despite his best efforts, he still couldn’t see where she was,” Bahuriak said.
He noted that Fretts did not leave the scene.
“He was distraught then, and he’s distraught now,” Bahuriak said. “This was an accident, Judge. It was terrible, but it was not a crime.”
Prosecutor Steven Patton said that Fretts’ failure to see the biker constituted "criminal recklessness.”
Patton said the intersection was known for its high volume of pedestrians and a busy bike lane.
"And this man wasn't driving a Honda Civic," Patton said. "He was driving a 32-ton industrial vehicle."
Patton said Fretts drove past a yield-to-bicyclists sign, and ran into Fredricks, who was riding straight and had the right-of-way.
“She was visible in the passenger-side window had the defendant looked,” Patton said.
Gold Medal Environmental, the company that owns the truck Fretts was driving, reached a $6 million settlement with Fredricks’ family in September and also agreed to contribute $25,000 a year for the next five years to an organization dedicated to safe streets in Philadelphia.