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Day 14: Dr. Corasanti Testifies in His Own Defense

1:31 PM, May 21, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Dr. James Corasanti took the stand Friday in his own defense.

Corasanti is accused of hitting Alix Rice while she was riding her longboard and leaving her to die on Heim Road in Amherst last July.

Corasanti began testifying at 10:06am.  2 On Your Side's Claudine Ewing was in court and said Corasanti was tearful and sobbing at times.

His defense attorney, Joel Daniels, asked him how he was feeling the night of the accident, Corasanti replied, "fine".

Corasanti also testified that he was driving 35-40 MPH, and said, "I felt my car ran over something in the road."

Daniels asked, "Did you know what?"

Corasanti replied, "No."

Corasanti said, "I heard the car run over something right side front to back."

Daniels asked, "Did you see anything in the road?  Person, skateboarder?"

Corasanti responded, "No."

Corasanti testified he texted when he got in the car, and at a traffic light.

He said that while he was at the Transit Valley Country Club, he had drinks; Captain Morgan and  ordered $100 bottle of wine "as a nice gesture" for friends.

Corasanti says the accident happened "in a fraction of a second".

Daniels asked Corasanti,  "After you ran over something, did you stop?"

Corasanti replied, "No."

At this point in the testimony, reporter Claudine Ewing says Corasanti was crying almost uncontrollably.

Daniels asked Corasanti why he didn't stop. Corasanti replied, "There was nothing I saw or felt that I should stop my car."

Daniels asked him, If you knew you had hit a person, would you stop your car?  Corasanti replied, "Of course, whatever I could do."

Corasanti testified that the first person he called was Tom Burton, an attorney.  "I didn't know what to do.  I wanted his advice," Corasanti said.

Corasanti said when he learned he hit a person he "just cried".

"I was just distraught. I just wanted to walk,"  he said.  "I spent my whole life trying to take care of people."

Cross-Examination

Prosecutor James  Bargnesi was firm and direct with his questions during cross examination, during which Dr. Corasanti did not tear up.

Bargnesi, "Your hope is that your version is that you are absolved of any wrongdoing?"

Corasanti, "Yes."

Bargnesi, "You don't want punishment that would come your way?"

Corasanit, "Right."

Bargnesi, "Would you do something in your power to change the situation you are in?"

Corasanti "I would."

Bargnesi, "You might stretch the truth?"

Corasanit, "No."

Bargnesi, "Your only concern is for yourself?"

Corasanti, "Absolutely incorrect."

Bargnesi also questioned Corasanti about being a GI specialist, understanding how the body absorbs alcohol, and his salary. 

Corasanti said he made $25,000 as chair of BMG group, and an annual phsician's salary of $400,000.

Bargnesi, "Fair to say if your version is believed, you would return to your position and salary and put this incident with Alix Rice behind?"

Corasanti, "I will not return to the Buffalo Medical Group."

Bargnesi, "But your profession?

Corasanti, "I would like to."

During the cross examination, Dr. Corasanti also denied alcohol, texting or speeding had anything to do with the accident.

When asked why he refused a breathalyzer test, Dr. Corasanti said he "was under advice of counsel."

Bargnesi went on to ask: "three hours since you left martini night, you could've said, I'm sober, I can take the test, I'm OK."

Corasanti also said he has been to Naples, Florida a few times since the accident.

"I went to get away from things," said Dr. Corasanti. "I wasn't working and couldn't work."

Prosecution also pointed out that on the morning of July 8th, the doctor's phone records indicate he had four texts between 7:37-7:39 a.m. and his Buffalo General patient list show he was doing procedures between 7:30 - 7:44 a.m.

"I don't text when I'm doing procedures," said Dr. Corasanti.

Corasanti said of all the texts he sent to his secretary and physician's assistant between 11:12 and 11:19, before the crash, he never sent them while he was driving, only while at stop lights and stop signs. He said, "There were three texts sent from a stop sign or red light- the only three text I sent when I was driving home."

Corasanti also denied knowing it was illegal to text while at a stop sign.

Corasanti also said he didn't recall sending two texts at 11:23 p.m., two minutes after the 911 call was made about the crash. He later testified, the day after the crash when he came home from the Amherst Police Department, he looked at his phone and realized he mistakenly dialed his physician's assistant. He sent her one text at 11:23 with the letter "p" and another at the same time with the letter "o."

Attention then turned to how much he drank at the Transit Valley Country Club the night of the crash. Corasanti claimed on cross-examination that he did eat that night- including Philly Cheesesteak quesadillas, carved turkey on rolls, and passed appetizers.

He admitted he drank three Captain Morgan and Diet Pepsis, a sip or two from a B&B Stinger, and a glass and "a little more" of wine. He said he pushed away his B&B Stinger when the wine came because the peppermint wouldn't taste good with the wine. But the prosecutor pressed him about if his wife pushed his drink away because he drank too much.

He said champagne was brought to his table when his group of friends won a golf wager, and even though he made the toast "for a nice evening with the new people we met," he never drank any of it.

Mrs. Corasanti left the club alone in her Range Rover and by 11:12 p.m. called Dr. Corasanti, who was still at the club. Bargnesi asked, "She's calling you to say where are you?"

Corasanti responded, "No. She called to remind me to put the garage door down."

Bargnesi said, "She didn't call to say where are you?"

Corarsanti said, "Well, she did say where are you."

Corasanti said he was not drunk and did not feel any affects of alcohol that night.

He also said his seated position in the car does not preclude him from seeing objects in front of him that are 3 ft. or smaller.

Bargnesi asked what is sounded like when he hit Rice. Corasanti responded, "It's difficult to know if there was a sound or a feeling. I felt something under the car. A thud if there was a sound."

Corasanti's attorney requested another mistrial, citing the prosecution questioning on Corasanti's employment, salary, Florida home and business in Utica.  The judge denied the request.

A large crowd of spectators were on hand at Erie County Court in hopes of getting a seat in the courtroom to watch the proceedings Friday.

Thursday, Judge Sheila DiTullio denied the defense's request to dismiss the charges against Corasanti.

She also ruled that the prosecution cannot question Corasanti on his previous DWI 16 years ago, saying it would be prejudicial.

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