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Monday November 28th

Friends testify on day three of Chandler Kania's trial

<p>Prosecution and defense approach the bench during Chandler Kania's trial Friday.</p>
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Prosecution and defense approach the bench during Chandler Kania's trial Friday.

The trial for former UNC student Chandler Kania continued Friday, with several of his friends and fraternity brothers testifying about the events preceding the crash on July 19, 2015.

Authorities say Kania was driving drunk on the wrong side of I-85 when he crashed into another car. The crash killed three people: Darlene McGee, 46, Felecia Harris, 49, and 6-year-old Jahnice Beard.  

The former UNC student, now 21, pleaded guilty to three counts of felony death by vehicle and one count each of driving while under the influence, driving with an open container, driving after consumption of alcohol under the age of 21, purchasing alcohol under the age of 21, consuming alcohol under the age of 21 and driving the wrong way on a two-lane highway. 

Kania pleaded not guilty to three counts of second degree murder and one count of reckless driving.

On Friday, the 12 jurors heard testimony from Joshua Hall, Joseph Lopez, Case Aldridge, Mason McConnell and Aditya “Ditz” Shah, Kania’s friends that were with him on the night of the crash.

Hall’s testimony began on Thursday and continued Friday. Kania, Hall and Alex Pugh, another friend of Kania, had been in Wilmington on July 17 and July 18 before driving to Chapel Hill. Hall said they had been drinking white wine and smoking marijuana on the beach in Wilmington before driving back.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman brought into question the inconsistencies between Hall’s testimony on Thursday compared to Friday.

Nieman questioned the details of Hall’s account. Hall previously said that to prevent Kania from texting and driving, he had texted Kania's friend Rebecca Greene, who testified Thursday, for Kania during the drive back to Chapel Hill. 

Nieman listed specific texts to numbers that were different from Greene’s and asked Hall to recall whether he had texted those numbers as well — or was Kania texting while driving.

“Are you trying to protect your friend?,” Nieman said.

Aldridge, Kania’s best friend and fraternity brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon, was then called to the stand. 

Aldridge said Kania went to a pregame party at Greene's apartment, and that he later met up with Kania, Shah, Pugh, Hall and Lopez at two Chapel Hill bars — La Residence and He's Not Here

A verbal altercation regarding Greene took place the night of the crash between Aldridge and Kania, resulting in Kania making a comment that took Aldridge by surprise.

“Chandler said something that wouldn’t normally come from his mouth,” Aldridge said, “I was shocked.”

Shah testified that, later in the night, at the intersection of Cameron Avenue and Columbia Street, he saw Aldridge walk by angrily.

“Case said to me, ‘Chandler is so selfish,’ and stormed off,” Shah said. 

Shah said he then went back to the Sigma Phi Epsilon house and ran to prevent Kania from getting in his car, which was parked in the parking lot of the fraternity house. 

“I’m running and yelling ‘Chandler, stop,” Shah said.

He tried to tackle Kania to prevent him from entering his car. Shah said Kania then tackled him. He landed on his back and was in a disoriented state on the ground for what he said was 5-6 seconds. 

Neiman had Shah reenact the altercation with Kania for the court. 

Kania drove off, but came back soon after and stayed for at least 10 seconds, Shah said. It was during that time that Shah took Kania's phone. 

Kania then left the fraternity house parking lot for the second time and turned right onto Cameron Avenue, Shah said.

The trial will continue Monday at the Orange County Courthouse.

City Editor Jane Little and Assistant City Editor Erin Kolstad contributed reporting.

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