Peter Goldblatt could have a decade shaved off his maximum prison term for killing two camp counselors from the United Kingdom in a 2010 drunken driving accident after a state appeals court ruled a jury at his trial was not properly instructed.
Justices with the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court overturned the 40-year-old Indian Lake man’s conviction on the charge of aggravated vehicular homicide and ordered a new trial be set. The court upheld Goldblatt’s other convictions in the case, meaning he will need to serve between five and 15 years behind bars.
In reversing the one conviction, the justices found that Warren County Judge John Hall refused to give clarifying instructions to the jury indicating they couldn’t consider Goldblatt’s intoxication as proof of reckless driving — a crucial component of the aggravated vehicular homicide charge.
“Defendant argues and the concurring opinion agrees that the jury should have been instructed that it could not consider evidence of defendant’s intoxication to prove the reckless driving element of aggravated vehicular manslaughter,” Justice Michael Kavanagh wrote in the ruling released Thursday.
“In that regard, there is no doubt that the jury should have been instructed that intoxication, absent more, does not establish reckless driving.”
In June 2010, Goldblatt had been playing golf and drinking at an Indian Lake golf course when he apparently decided to drive to Queensbury in order to purchase crack cocaine. He was drinking 24-ounce beer behind the wheel of his sport utility vehicle when it veered off the shoulder on Golf Course Road in Warrensburg, striking 21-year-old Emily Lewis of Scotland and 21-year-old Dominic Hartley of England; a third counselor, 28-year-old Christopher Jones of England, sustained minor injuries.
Goldblatt refused a Breathalyzer test at the scene, but authorities later determined his blood alcohol content to be around 0.15 percent at the time of the crash. Investigators also determined he was driving 55 mph — 15 miles over the posted speed limit — when he struck the group of counselors from Camp Echo Lake as they stood at the top of a trail head.
The group of counselors had came from a “Mad Hatter” party and were wearing festive attire, including a bright orange hat. Some in the group were even carrying glow sticks.
Goldblatt was found guilty of vehicular homicide, manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and six other charges. The vehicular homicide charge landed him up to 25 years in state prison during his sentencing in December.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said she is considering an appeal of the decision, but will not pursue a new trial on the reversed count out of respect for the families of the two counselors who died. Both families decided that it wasn’t worth bringing the survivors back to court to recount the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths.
“They are enormously compassionate people who don’t want the other kids who testified to have to go through a trial again, so there will be no retrying the case,” she said.
Goldblatt is now lodged at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Washington County. His attorney, Reed Smith, was satisfied with the appellate court ruling.
“We’re gratified by the appellate division’s decision,” he said.