DA: Drue had alcohol, pot in his system

Posted at: 01/07/2013 11:40 PM
By: Dan Levy

BALLSTON SPA - Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy says Dennis Drue had a combination of alcohol and marijuana in his system the night his Volvo slammed into an SUV on the Northway, killing two teenagers and seriously injuring two others.

Something the DA is not saying, however, is to what degree Drue was allegedly impaired.

Twenty-two year old Dennis Drue is facing 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison for allegedly causing the horrible Northway crash on December 1st that left two Shenedehowa students, Christopher Stewart and Deanna Rivers, dead, and Matt Hardy and Shaker student Bailey Wind, seriously hurt.

The toxicology results, according to Murphy, indicate Drue had more than just alcohol in his system.

"There was also a quantity of marijuana that was actively affecting his brain and was actively affecting his ability to drive that motor vehicle," said Murphy, "He was impaired at the time of the commission of the crime."

"We can't respond," said Steve Coffey, Drue's attorney, "I've been given nothing except a 59 count indictment.

Coffey concedes his client had a few drinks before the crash but insists he was not intoxicated.

"They can put anything they want in the grand jury," Coffey says, "They could have charged him with anything they wanted. I have no reason to believe that there were crimes committed here based upon the information I have."

"The important thing to remember," Murphy said, "is that there's an allegation of "impairment to any extent". That statute does not require a quantitative measure."

Albany attorney Peter Gerstenzang, an expert in drunk driving law, says Murphy's approach to the case, called extrapolation, is commonplace and controversial. It involves reliable blood work done some time later after the crash and working backwards to determine the blood level during the moments leading up to the crash.

"That's done with expert witnesses and it's highly controversial," Gerstenzang says. "There will be a lot of testimony that is going to require a lot of information about the defendant, such as what he was drinking, when he was drinking, and whether there was food in his stomach."

Of the 59 counts in the indictment, 52 are felonies, including Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, Vehicular Manslaughter 1st Degree, Manslaughter 2nd, and Vehicular Assault.

Dennis Drue was free Monday night after posting $50,000 bail. Family members who had been in the courtroom, declined comment.

DA Murphy handed out a list of Drue's driving history that includes numerous speeding tickets, along with several license suspensions and revocations. It's relevance to this case remains to be determined.

Murphy also acknowledged that Drue had tens of thousands of dollars and state police are investigating how a 22-year old college student without a job could have accumulated that much money.