Driver Pleads Innocent

CELINA — A Korean man accused of causing a collision that took the life of a 3-year-old Minster girl last month asserted his innocence on Wednesday.

Jinghao Xu, 50, of Hamilton, pleaded innocent to one count of vehicular homicide, a fourth-degree felony. Xu’s attorney, Michael Sacher entered the plea on behalf of his client, who does not speak English. Like in previous court appearances, Xu was flanked by an interpreter.

“We are awaiting some discovery and there may be a chance of changing the plea,” Sacher said. “But at this time we are entering not guilty.”

Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Ingraham accepted the plea and continued Xu’s $250,000 bond. Ingraham also ordered Xu to return for a pretrial hearing at 10 a.m. Dec. 6.

A Mercer County grand jury indicted Xu late last month. The lone charge against Xu stemmed from an Oct. 15 collision at the intersection of Ohio 119 and U.S. 127 in Granville Township.

According to a crash report, Xu was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Express Van westbound on Ohio 119. He reportedly stopped at the stop sign and entered the intersection. Upon entering the intersection, the van was struck by a northbound 2002 Chevrolet Prism. Three other people in the Prism, including the driver, were treated for injuries, as was Xu.

After the crash, law enforcement officials checked into Xu’s immigration status because he reportedly told them he was not a U.S. citizen and his Illinois operator’s license had reportedly been canceled.

During his initial hearing, Mercer County Municipal Court Judge James Scheer noted there appeared to be no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision. If convicted on the charge, Xu faces a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.