Local/State

NJ man gets plea deal in 'Idol' contestant death

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
FILE - In this undated image released by FOX, American Idol contestant Alexis Cohen, 23, of Allentown, Pa., performs in front of the judges during tryouts for the programs seventh season in Philadelphia. Authorities say the 25-year-old former contestant on American Idol has been struck and killed by a car in a Jersey shore town. The Asbury Park Press reports that Alexis Cohen, of Allentown, Pa., was killed early Saturday July 25, 2009 in Seaside Heights New Jersey.

FILE - In this undated image released by FOX, "American Idol" contestant Alexis Cohen, 23, of Allentown, Pa., performs in front of the judges during tryouts for the program's seventh season in Philadelphia. Authorities say the 25-year-old former contestant on "American Idol" has been struck and killed by a car in a Jersey shore town. The Asbury Park Press reports that Alexis Cohen, of Allentown, Pa., was killed early Saturday July 25, 2009 in Seaside Heights New Jersey. ((AP Photo/FOX, Michael Becker, File))

New Jersey prosecutors have dropped the most serious charges against a man who had been accused of killing a former "American Idol" contestant with his car, agreeing with his lawyer that even though he had confessed, there is no evidence he struck the woman.

Daniel Bark pleaded guilty under a plea agreement Monday to eluding police and drunken driving. Prosecutors dismissed aggravated manslaughter and other charges in the 2009 accident that killed Alexis Cohen of Allentown, Pa. Her profanity-laden rants when she was rejected by the show on two successive seasons were shown repeatedly.

The 25-year-old's body was found on a road in Seaside Heights. Bark faces probation and nearly a year in jail when he's sentenced. His attorney Michael Nolan told the Asbury Park Press there's never been any physical evidence connecting Bark to Cohen's death.

"As we've said all along, there has never been any proof that he did do it," he said. "The sad part is, this girl was killed, and whoever killed that girl is still driving around out there."

Nolan said his client was pressured into confessing to something he didn't do. In court Monday, Bark said he had drunk about six beers at a nightclub before getting into his car and driving early on July 25, 2009. He acknowledged ignoring orders from two bicycle police officers to stop, instead driving away from them. He said he was afraid because of the beers he had consumed, and because he had a marijuana pipe in his car.

Bark acknowledged swerving and nearly striking the police officers before fleeing from them, and driving through several stop signs. He also conceded he was impaired by the beer, though he wouldn't submit to a test to determine his blood-alcohol level when he was pulled over by other police officers.

The suspect denied having anything to do with Cohen's death for the first 40 minutes of his interview with police, but then said he may have hit a woman, and at one point said he did hit her. The investigators continued questioning him for a while before reading him his rights.

A judge threw out that confession because police failed to advise him of his rights, including the right to have an attorney present during questioning.

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Information from: Asbury Park Press, http://www.app.com

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new jersey, ocean county, homicide, american idol, local/state
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