Dennis Drue, the Siena College student police say rear-ended an SUV on the Northway on Dec. 1, killing two Shenendehowa High School students and injuring two other students, is facing a litany of charges over the incident.
Drue was arraigned in Saratoga County Court on Monday, Jan. 7, on an indictment holding 59 counts, 52 of them felonies, including multiple counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular manslaughter and driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or alcohol.
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said the DWAI charge does not require a quantitative amount for Drue’s BAC level, although he said he believed Drue was under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana when the accident occurred.
“Many people mistakenly think pot is no big deal,” Murphy told reporters after the arraignment. “Pot is a big deal when you drive. It affects your mind and your body in a way that your reaction time is lessened, your ability to perceive things is lengthened, your ability to judge distances is made less accurate and those kinds of things affect your motor control and skills so that you can’t make appropriate judgments as if you were sober.”
Murphy said the lengthy indictment is “not surprising” because there were four victims in the crash. Two of them, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, were killed and two others, Matt Hardy and Bailey Wind, were seriously injured.
“When you have one victim, the indictment can be certainly lengthy, but when you multiply that by four victims it is going to be four times as large, at least,” Murphy said.
During the court proceeding, which were presided over by Judge Jerry Scarano, there was a discussion between prosecutors and Stephen Coffey, Drue’s attorney, over whether bail should be granted. Murphy said police found a bag of marijuana and a marijuana pipe in Drue’s car, as well as a receipt from his bank account indicating he has “vast resources of money.” Police also reported that Drue was anxious to gain access to his two safety deposit boxes.
Murphy also argued Drue is a flight risk because he has previously fled the scene of an accident and failed to appear in court to answer traffic tickets.
Scarano set bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond and Drue posted the bail and was released from Saratoga County jail Monday afternoon. The conditions of the bail include the surrender of his driver’s license, which was legal at the time of the accident, and the surrender of a shotgun. Drue must also not be in possession of any controlled substances while out on bail.
Speaking after the arraignment, Coffey professed his client’s innocence.
“We don’t apologize for one minute, and I understand this was a terrible accident, but we are pleading not guilty and I want to be very clear about that,” he said. “We’re going to contest this indictment. I know there’s 59 counts but we don’t intend — and I’ll make this very clear — to go 58 out of 59. That plea is all 59 counts.”
Coffey also intimated Drue would not get a fair trial, in part because of the extensive media coverage of the crash, victims and Drue himself in the weeks following the incident.
“What do we have, 20 people here today?” said Coffey, in reference to gathered reporters. “How many of these 20 people think he’s not guilty? The reality of the public’s reaction to a terrible accident is that he is guilty.”
During a press conference following the arraignment, Murphy said authorities hope to prove Drue’s BAC level at the time of the crash, not when his blood was drawn several hours later at the hospital. He did not disclose what BAC police recorded then, though.
“There are ways to look at determining the actual BAC using tools, as to what the BAC could have been at the time of the crash,” said Murphy. “We feel confident we can sustain our burden of proof in the charge of DWI.
The entire grand jury indictment against Drue, which was unsealed during the arraignment, includes 20 counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter, two counts of second-degree manslaughter, four counts of first-degree vehicular assault, eight counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, two counts of second-degree assault, eight counts of second-degree vehicular assault, second-degree criminal using of drug paraphernalia, driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or of alcohol, driving while ability impaired by drugs, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Drue’s driving record contains more than 22 violations since 2008, including multiple speeding charges, failure to stop at a stop sign, operating an uninspected motor vehicle, talking on a cell phone while driving, obstructed view, not having safety glass and having tinted windows. He was also convicted of marijuana possession and was also involved in four accidents, including one hit and run.
If convicted of all charges, Drue faces up to 25 years in prison. Scarano adjourned the case for 45 days for examination of evidence. No future court date has been set.
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