AMHERST, NY- It's another high profile case involving drinking and driving, and resulting in tragedy. Now some are making comparisons between the case of Dr. James Corasanti, and the case of David Smith, who's accused of being drunk, and killing two people with his motorcycle on the Amherst Bike path last weekend.
Smith, 53, of Niagara Falls, appeared before an Amherst town judge Thursday on two counts of criminally negligent homicide, D-W-I and unreasonable speed and the case will now move on to an Erie County Grand Jury.
25-year-old Jocelyn Elberson and 81-year-old Sheila Pelton were killed while walking on the bike path. Pelton's husband was seriously injured.
Smith is represented by Attorney Joel Daniels, who got a lot of attention last spring when he represented Doctor James Corasanti. Daniels was successful in his efforts to get the doctor acquitted, except for a lesser common law D-W-I charge, in the crash that killed 18-year-old Alix Rice. That Heim Road accident scene is not far from the bike path where Smith's crash happened.
The Assistant District Attorney trying the Smith case is Kelley Omel, and she was one of the prosecutors in the Corasanti case.
Another similarity? Corasanti had a prior driving while impaired charge 16 years ago, and Smith has an extensive alcohol related rap sheet.
"The defendant has two misdemeanor and one felony DWI as well as one conviction of driving while impaired in New York State. The most recent New York State conviction that I'm aware of is in 2000," said Omel.
Attorney and legal analyst Barry Covert said just as we saw in Corasanti's case, Smith's record will likely not be admissible in a trial, but could play a role later on.
"They will absolutely be taken into consideration at the sentencing," said Covert.
You might remember a focus in the Corasanti trial was challenging the blood draw, which said his BAC was .10 five hours after the crash. In Smith's case, he refused a blood test, but one was taken after the court ordered it.
"You can expect in any case that has a compulsory blood draw, especially under a search warrant, that it's going to be challenged by the defense," Covert said.
That is where the similarities end. Dr. Corasanti claimed he didn't see Alix Rice in the road, while police say Smith's speeding led to the crash.
"The motorcycle had to leave the road and hit the victims while they were walking on the trail. That's far different than a longboard and the question of whether she was weaving in and out of the traffic," Covert said.
Also, the charges are different. Corasanti was charged with 2nd degree manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DWI, and leaving the scene. Right now Smith is charged with criminally negligent homicide, DWI , unreasonable speed and other violations, but that will likely change if the blood test shows he was drunk.
"There's definitely a potential here that we're going to have aggravated vehicular homicide. We also could potentially depending on what the circumstances are, have a depraved indifference murder count," said Covert.
It's too early to tell if Smith's case will turn into a long trial like Corasanti's or if he'll take a plea deal. If the DA doesn't offer a plea with reduced charges, and the judge can't promise a shorter sentence, then Covert says it's very possible this case will go to trial.