Kallas Remarks: Lucky Jim Leyritz
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By Steve Kallas
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As you probably know by now, former Yankee Jim Leyritz was acquitted this past Saturday of felony DUI (driving under the influence) manslaughter in a 2007 car crash that killed Fredia Ann Veitch, a 30-year-old mother of two. Leyritz was convicted of the lesser crime of driving under the influence, a misdemeanor which has a maximum jail sentence of six months (as opposed to the maximum of 15 years on the felony).
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
Well, it’s hard to say. Apparently, both Leyritz and the deceased were drunk while driving on the night of December 27, 2007. Leyritz had been out celebrating his birthday and, according to prosecutors, had the equivalent of 11-12 shots of liquor before driving home at 3 a.m. But Leyritz (intelligently for him, it says here) refused to take a breathalyzer test at the scene. Three hours later, he blew a 0.14, almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.
Two witnesses testified that Ms. Veitch had the green light when she went through the intersection in her Mitsubishi Montero and was hit by Leyritz’s Ford Expedition. Her car rolled over and Ms. Veitch, not wearing a seat belt, was ejected onto the pavement. The passenger in Leyritz’s car testified that the light was yellow as Leyritz went through it.
On cross-examination, the two witnesses who testified that the light was green for the deceased “were less definitive,” according to the Associated Press, as to whether the light was yellow or red for Leyritz.
AN INTERESTING CONUNDRUM
And therein lies the problem of the whole prosecution. Presumably, if the light was green for the deceased, the light HAD to be red for Jim Leyritz. But given the fact that Leyritz’s passenger testified it was yellow, coupled with the fact that the witnesses who said the light for the deceased was green could not state that the light for Leyritz was red (how could they? – stand on a corner sometime and see if you can see both lights at the same time – it’s very hard, if not impossible), this was enough (along with other testimony) to raise reasonable doubt for the six-person jury.
Frankly, there was a lot of good lawyering going on in Jim Leyritz’s corner.
WILL JIM LEYRITZ DO TIME?
It says here that he will. He received an acquittal again, in this writer’s opinion, as a result of excellent lawyering on the part of his defense counsel, David Bogenschutz. The fact that the deceased was drunk and not wearing a seat belt, that it was unclear whether her lights were on and the jury foreman’s statement that “when you look at the manslaughter part of the case, it’s not provable either way,” all added up to reasonable doubt and a not guilty verdict.
But given the results (a dead mother of two) plus the testimony from two people that she had the light in her favor, one would think that the judge has to send some message to the community and give Jim Leyritz some time in jail, arguably the maximum six months.
SO, IS JIM LEYRITZ LUCKY?
Well, Jim Leyritz has been through hell. He disappeared from Yankee Stadium after the accident, stopped doing radio work and had to deal with a trial that could have landed him in jail for up to 15 years.
But it says here that he is a lucky man. After earlier settling a wrongful death suit by agreeing to pay the Veitch family $350,000, he now “only” faces up to six months in prison.
And that’s a heckuva a lot better than up to 15 years.
- Leyritz Vows Never To Drive Under Influence Again (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz Acquitted In Fatal DUI Crash (newyork.cbslocal.com)