NORRISTOWN — A Norristown man was a no-show at his sentencing hearing on charges he was driving drunk and fled from police who tried to stop his vehicle on Route 422 in Upper Providence, prompting a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest.
Ramon Ryan Stewart, 34, of the 300 block of East Marshall Street, failed to appear on Tuesday in Montgomery County Court for his sentencing hearing on charges of fleeing and eluding police, driving under the influence of alcohol and several summary traffic violations in connection with an Oct. 21, 2017, incident on eastbound Route 422.
Testimony revealed Stewart is in Georgia and claims to be unable to return to Pennsylvania. Defense lawyer Sarah Hudson told Judge Risa Vetri Ferman that Stewart does not have identification and implied that’s making it difficult for Stewart to make travel arrangements.
Stewart’s original Sept. 4 sentencing hearing was postponed to give Stewart time to make arrangements to return from Georgia.
But when Stewart still hadn’t appeared in court for his rescheduled sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Gwendolyn Kull argued that his bail should be revoked.
Ferman agreed, revoked Stewart’s bail and issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Essentially, the warrant allows authorities to take Stewart into custody and bring him to court to be sentenced.
A jury convicted Stewart of the charges during a two-day trial in May. At that time, Ferman allowed Stewart to remain free on bail pending his sentencing hearing.
Stewart faces a possible maximum sentence of 3½-to-7-years in prison on the charges. However, state sentencing guidelines could allow for a lesser sentence.
During the trial, Kull showed jurors video footage, obtained from the dash camera of a state police cruiser, of the brief 2:28 a.m. chase that ensued when Stewart sped away from police who stopped the Toyota Camry that Stewart was operating with two passengers.
Testimony revealed the chase ended when the vehicle exited Route 422 at Oaks and all three occupants of the vehicle ran from the vehicle. Stewart was the only person apprehended by police, who identified him as the driver.
At trial, Hudson argued police did not have a clear enough view of the driver of the vehicle to be certain that it was indeed Stewart. Hudson suggested it was too dark for troopers to positively identify the driver from a distance and suggested police identified the wrong man as the driver.
The two other occupants of the vehicle were never apprehended and never identified.
The investigation began when troopers on routine patrol on eastbound Route 422 observed a Toyota Camry crossing the white fog line onto the shoulder and crossing the dividing lines between the right and left lanes several times. Suspecting the driver may be intoxicated, the troopers activated emergency lights and conducted a traffic stop on the shoulder of the highway.
Trooper Jason Henley said that as he approached the vehicle he observed three occupants, the driver and two passengers, one in the front seat and one in the rear seat. Henley alleged the operator had facial hair and was wearing a distinctive patterned shirt.
“The operator of the vehicle was observed leaning up and looking through the side view mirror. Once I was at the trunk of the vehicle the operator of the vehicle flees the traffic stop and traveled east on (Route 422) at a high rate of speed,” Henley wrote in the arrest affidavit.
The Camry traveled at speeds of more than 100 mph and was observed weaving in and out of traffic in an area where the posted speed limit is 55 mph, according to court documents.
After the Camry exited at Oaks, all three occupants ran from the vehicle while it was still in drive, police alleged. The driver, the man with facial hair and wearing a patterned shirt, was observed exiting the vehicle and running across Egypt Road toward Black Rock Road, police claimed. Police apprehended Stewart after a brief foot chase.
“When Stewart was apprehended a strong scent of alcoholic beverage was emanating from his breath and his eyes were observed to be glassy and bloodshot,” Henley alleged, adding Stewart refused a breath test.