Guilty verdict in fatal Stephentown crash trial - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Guilty verdict in fatal Stephentown crash trial

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Image of vehicle involved in accident. (NEWS10 ABC) Image of vehicle involved in accident. (NEWS10 ABC)
Brendan Hoffman in court (NEWS10 ABC) Brendan Hoffman in court (NEWS10 ABC)

STEPHENTOWN, N.Y. – A jury found a 22-year-old accused of leaving the scene of a 2012 fatal crash where his friend, the victim, was not found until hours later guilty on all charges.

Brendan Hoffman, 22, was charged in the alcohol-related crash that ended up killing his friend.

During closing arguments, the defense claimed no one can be sure who was actually behind the wheel that night. The prosecution later told the jury that Hoffman wasn't worried about his friend, telling a passerby "get me out of here." He also asked why the defendant would run if he wasn't the driver.

A witness saw the vehicle flip over in June, and called police. The witness stated they saw a white vehicle pulling up to the scene and the driver of the flipped car get out, climb into the other car, and drive away.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they found the car but no occupants. Upon further investigation they discovered the driver, 20-year-old Brandon Hoffman, had been taken to Berkshire Medical Center where he told his father hours after the crash that his best friend and passenger, 24-year-old Christopher Baker, had also been in the car. His father then called the sheriff's office.

Police say Baker had been ejected more than 100 feet from the wreckage, where his body was found.

Hoffman has been charged with Vehicular Homicide, Manslaughter, Driving While Intoxicated, Reckless Driving and Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident.  He was found guilty of all 12 counts that weresubmitted to the jury including three counts Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, three counts Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree, three counts Driving While Intoxicated, one count Manslaughter in the Second Degree, one count Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Auto Accident without Reporting, and one count Reckless Driving.

Following the trial jury's discharge, the defense renewed itsmotion for a trial order of dismissal, and the Court partially granted themotion.  Essentially, the Court ruled that, notwithstanding the jury's verdict,the Court found that the evidence in support of the charge of Reckless Drivingwas insufficient as a matter of law, set aside the verdict of guilty as to theReckless Driving count and dismissed the charge.  Furthermore, becauseReckless Driving was also an essential element of the charge of AggravatedVehicular Homicide, the Court set aside each verdict as to the three AggravatedVehicular Homicide counts and dismissed those charges as well.

Thus, the defendant now stands convicted of 3 counts of VehicularManslaughter in the First Degree, 3 counts of Driving While Intoxicated,Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Leaving the Scene of a Personal InjuryAuto Accident W/O Reporting. 

He showed no emotion in court Tuesday, as first the prosecution and then the defense laid out their opening statements. Authorities say Hoffman lost control of the car and it flipped, Baker was ejected, and Hoffman managed to climb out.

The prosecution says another driver stopped to help, but that Hoffman never said someone else was in that vehicle.

Authorities say Hoffman left the scene before police even arrived. The defense, though, painted a different picture, telling the jury that Baker was behind the wheel, not Hoffman.

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