BUFFALO, N.Y. - Lawyers for both sides spent Thursday morning discussing what charges the judge will read to the jury in the fatal hit-and-run trial of Dr. James Corasanti.
When the jury begins deliberating Tuesday, Defendant Dr. James Corasanti faces five separate charges. Each carries a possible prison sentence for the 57-year-old physician.
The top charge is Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree. To get a conviction, the prosecution needed to convince the jury that Corasanti was:
1) Driving Drunk, and
2) Caused the death of Alix Rice
3) Because he was drunk
The maximum sentence: 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.
Defense attorney and DWI expert Michael Taheri joined us Thursday afternoon to discuss some of these charges.
REPORTER: If they think he was intoxicated, but that the intoxication didn't cause the death, then what do they do?
TAHERI: You're going to have to look at how the jury is charged with the judge. The likelihood is, if they aren't satisfied with the proof of intoxication, they're going to find him not guilty of that charge, and move onto the next charge in the indictment.
Charge two is regular Manslaughter in the Second Degree. That means the prosecution needed to prove that Corasanti acted:
2) Causing Alix's Death
The maximum sentence is 5 to 15 years. Both the prosecution and defense could have asked that the jury consider a lesser charge here -- criminally negligent homicide -- but decided against it.
TAHERI: It's going to be all or nothing.
REPORTER: All or nothing, and if they don't get him, that's it.
TAHERI: He would walk.
REPORTER: In this particular case, what type of reckless behavior do you think the prosecution is referring to?
TAHERI: I think that they're going to look at a couple of pieces. I think they're going to rely on the texting. I think they're going to rely on the speed. They're going to rely on the alcohol, and say, when you look at the totality of what's going on during this short event, what else does it lead you to conclude?
Next, charge three is Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident. Here, the prosecution had to prove that Corasanti:
1) Injured a person with his car
2) Was aware of it
2) Left the scene
3) And the Injury resulted in death
The maximum sentence - 2 1/3 to 7 years.
REPORTER: Is this particular charge probably the easiest one for the prosecution to prove?
TAHERI: I think it is because alcohol isn't an element, and, a lot of times you get caught up (asking) "is he drunk?" Actually, in leaving the scene of an accident, all there is is a fatality, and the person didn't stay or render aid or help. He left.
The final two charges , 4 and 5, are Tampering with Physical Evidence. That means the prosecution needed to prove that Corasanti:
2) Concealed, altered, or destroyed physical evidence
3) Believing it would be used in court
In this case, the prosecution argued Corasanti tampered with evidence first by deleting text messages sent from his I-phone near the time of the crash, and second, by cleaning some of the blood and human tissue off his damaged vehicle while it was parked in his garage. The maximum sentence for each count is 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison.
All told, Corasanti faces well over 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Conviction on any of them likely would result in the loss of his medical license.