Judge frees Trenton man charged with vehicular homicide, prosecutors consent
A city man facing vehicular homicide charges has been released from jail after the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office had a change of heart.
Three days after his high-profile arrest, 53-year-old Michael Ganie was set free Monday with minimal conditions. He is accused of striking and killing 61-year-old Rodney Taylor in a Sept. 17 hit-and-run car accident near the McDonald’s restaurant off Chambers Street.
Prosecutors originally filed a detention motion seeking to keep Ganie locked up at the county jail without bail pending final resolution of his case. But upon further review, the state determined it would be more appropriate for Ganie to be released on minimal, non-monetary conditions.
“We did withdraw the motion,” Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio confirmed Tuesday in an email. “Under the new bail reform laws, the recommendation is for release. We filed initially, but after receiving more information felt it was appropriate to withdrawal the motion.”
The bail reform law that went into effect Jan. 1 discourages monetary bails and allows the state to pursue pretrial detention against any newly arrested defendant charged with high crimes and any newly arrested defendant deemed to be dangerous or a flight risk.
Trenton Police Detective Craig Kirk arrested Ganie on Friday and charged him with death-by-auto, leaving the scene of an accident and several other offenses in connection with Taylor’s death. He was being held in jail pending a detention hearing, but Judge Harold George ordered Ganie to be released Monday after the prosecutor’s office withdrew its detention motion.
“I am not going to speculate on why they withdrew the detention motion, but I think it is what they should have done,” Ganie’s defense attorney Raymond C. Staub said Tuesday in an interview, adding his client is a gainfully employed, longtime Trenton resident who will show up to his mandatory court dates.
“He is presumed innocent; he has maintained throughout he had nothing to do with this,” Staub said of his client. “Nobody wanted this to happen. It’s a tragedy all around. Hopefully we won’t compound it and go after someone innocent of the charges.”
In releasing the defendant, the judge did not consider whether the state has a strong case against Ganie, according to Staub, who suggested the judge made the decision based upon factors that did not consider Ganie to be at high-risk of committing new criminal activity or at high-risk to flee from prosecution.
The judge released Ganie on Pretrial Monitoring Level 1 conditions, which means he has to make monthly phone reporting to the New Jersey Judiciary’s Pretrial Services Program, according to Staub. No restrictions have been placed on Ganie’s driving privileges.
Authorities said Rodney Taylor was in the middle of the roadway as a pedestrian when he was struck by a vehicle Ganie was driving through the 400 block of Chambers Street about 10:20 p.m. Sept. 17. Taylor suffered severe injuries and later died at the hospital.
Ganie is accused of leaving the scene of the accident and authorities say they have evidence that places him behind the wheel of the car at the time of the fatal crash.
Staub said he has not seen any evidence in the case as of Tuesday.
Ganie has a pre-indictment conference scheduled for Nov. 29 at the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse.