Corasanti Trial: Opening Statements in Trial Against Doctor Charged in Fatal Hit and Run

10:54 AM, Apr 27, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - The trial for a prominent, WNY physician charged in a fatal hit and run last summer began Thursday with opening statements.

WEB EXTRAClick here to see a photo gallery from court

Dr. James Corasanti is accused of hitting Alexandria Rice with his car, and then leaving her to die on Heim Road in East Amherst last July.

Dr. Corasanti is charged with vehicular manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, leaving a deadly accident scene and tampering with physical evidence.

Corasanti has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case is being tried in front of Judge Sheila DiTullio in Erie County Court.   The prosecutors in the trial are Kelley A. Omel and James F. Bargnesi.  Joel Daniels and Tom Burton are representing Corasanti.

Prosecutor Bargnesi began saying this is a "simple case" and that the defendant make "one tragic decision after another". 

Bargnesi says Corasanti's BAC level was .10 five hours after the accident.  That Corasanti spent the evening drinking at a "Martini Event" at the Transit Valley Country Club.

He says Corasanti was texting before the accident to friends at work and to friends in Florida.

Bargnesi says Corasanti made the choice to leave Alix Rice there to die.

Bargnesi says a couple who heard the accident found Rice's body 167 feet away from the point of impact.

A medical examiner is expected to testify that Rice suffered an internal decapitation from the accident.

Bargnesi discusses evidence that was left behind from the accident, including a fluid leaking for a broken part of Corasanti's BMW leaving a trail through the neighborhood near his home.

Bargnesi says Corasanti's wife got into her own undamaged vehicle and drove to the scene of accident to see what was going on, but never reported to authorities what she might know.

Bargnesi says a security camera at Corasanti's home show Corasanti leaving his home and running down the street after the accident.

Neighbors say they found Corasanti around the corner.

Bargnesi says Corasanti told his neighbors 'I hit something... I sent my wife back and she saw the ambulance.'

Bargnesi says Corasanti also told neighbors ' I ruined my life.  I ruined my career."

It's alleged in opening arguments that when the neighbors tell Corasanti to do the right thing, he says, 'I'm not going to jail'.

Bargnesi says 53 minutes after the accident, Corasanti still had not called 911 or other authorities to report the accident.

Bargnesi says it was one hour and 18 minutes after the accident before Corasanti spoke to police officials when a neighbor called a police contact.

Officers are expected to testify that when police took Corasanti into custody at a gas station nearly two hours after the accident, he asks officers how the girl is and refused to have his blood drawn.

Bargnesi says Corasanti's car suffered serious damage in the accident and that a piece of human tissue was removed from the car.

Bargnesi says dozens of texts before and after the accident were deleted, as well as the texts of two women who Corasanti texted.

Bargnesi talks about Rice and how she worked two jobs and was planning to go to school for fashion.

Corasanti's defense attorney Joel Daniels begins his opening statements describing Corasanti as a hard working man who came from humbled beginnings.

He says the press has been relentless and that Corasanti will testify in this trial.

He profiled Corasanti's education, graduating from Niagara University, UB Medical School and studied at Yale for three years.

Daniels says on the night of the accident, Corasanti worked from 7am-5pm and met his wife at country club for a couples' golf event.  He was there until 11pm.

Daniels says no one from the country club, employees or guests, will testify that Corasanti was drunk or had too much to drink. 

Daniels talks about Corasanti's cell phone, an iPhone.   He says it's not unusual for Corasanti to receive dozens of texts for patients, co-workers and friends.   He says his last texts were to his secretary and physician's assistant and were one-two minutes before the accident.

Daniels describes the possible route Rice took home and says while Rice was wearing a bright green shirt, it was not reflective.

Daniels says before the accident, a motorist will testify that he nearly hit Rice at Dodge and Heim because she crossed in front his car.

Daniels says a second motorist says Rice crossed in front of his car and was crouched down with no reflective clothing.

Daniels says Corasanti will testify that he was driving in his lane, his car was under control and that he wasn't driving reckless.  He is also expected to testify that he didn't see Rice before or after the accident and that the car did not drive differently after the accident. 

Daniels says Corasanti will also testify that he did feel his car hit something and that he heard a "thud", but did not know he hit Rice.

Daniels says if Corasanti knew he had hit the girl, he would have done everything to try and save Rice's life.

Daniels says Corasanti drove home and put his car into the garage because that's where he was headed.

He said it was there that Corasanti saw the damage on his car.

Daniels says Corasanti told his wife that he hit something and when they were looking at the damage, Corasanti took the piece of human tissue off the car and put on a wooden step in the garage.

Daniels reports that Corasanti's wife went to the scene to see what happened and reported back to her husband.  Daniels says Corasanti contacted his attorney to find out what to do.

Daniels says Corasanti bolted from the house and that his wife tried to stop him. 

Daniels talks about the neighbors that located Corasanti and the conversation with the off-duty Amherst Police officer who told him to walk to the NOCO gas station, where police picked him up from there. 

During this part of the opening statements, you could see Corasanti was shaken up.

Once in custody, Daniels says Corasanti asked the police lieutenant about Rice.

Daniels says police asked to look at Corasanti's car and Corasanti and his attorney agreed to let police to take the car into police custody.

Daniels says there was no attempt to cover up any damage on Corasanti's BMW.

Daniels says Corasanti was taken to Millard Suburban to have his blood drawn by a court order and that the blood was tested later the next day at Central Police Services.   He says they will challenge the accuracy of the test during the trial.

About 40 people were lined up outside the courtroom Thursday morning to watch the proceedings.  Family members from both sides are in attendance.  Rice's parents are expected to testify this afternoon.

Cameras will only be allowed in the courtroom only for opening statements and closing arguments.  No electronic devices will be allowed into the courtroom during the trial.

2 On Your Side's Claudine Ewing is in court and will provide updates on WGRZ.COM of the trial during break times.

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