Alexander West's attorney said Wednesday he is innocent of manslaughter and the other criminal charges brought against him over a fatal boat crash in July on Lake George.
"This is an accident, folks," Cheryl Coleman of Albany said after West's arraignment in Warren County Court on a dozen charges, including eight felonies that could send him to state prison.
West did not speak in court other than to give identifying information, but not guilty pleas to all the charges were automatically entered on West's behalf by Warren County Court Judge John Hall Jr.
Hall, however, increased West's bail to $100,000 cash or a $300,000 bail bond. West has been free since July on a $100,000 bond set in Lake George Town Court.
West was taken from court in handcuffs after his arraignment, but Coleman said he would make the new bail amount either late Wednesday or today.
If West is released on bail, Hall told him he will be under daily probation supervision, including drug and alcohol testing, and would be jailed for any violations, including consumption of drugs or alcohol.
In the first public statements on West's behalf since his arrest, Coleman said she expects to fight all the charges.
"There are a million legal and factual issues in this case," she told reporters. "I have never seen a case that looks more different on the inside than it does on the outside."
She added that even though he isn't criminally responsible, West is "devastated" by the crash and McCue's death.
In the indictment handed up by a grand jury on Monday, West faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, felony assault and criminally negligent homicide related to the July 25 crash that killed 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, who was a passenger in her grandparents' boat.
West, 24, of Lockhart Mountain Road, Lake George, is accused of being impaired by alcohol and drugs at the time of the collision, which occurred at 9:22 p.m. off Cramer Point, about three miles north of Lake George village.
Police said West’s boat struck and went over the top of the boat in which McCue was riding while operating at high speed.
Authorities have said West and four passengers had been partying at Log Bay Day, an annual party on the other side of the lake, prior to the crash. The passengers all face misdemeanor charges that accuse them of lying to investigators on the night of the crash.
West turned himself in to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office the next day.
Previously, the most serious charge West faced was leaving the scene of a fatal accident, but Coleman said the more serious charges were expected.
"Every single charge in this indictment will be defended vigorously," Coleman said.
In court, Coleman argued for keeping the bail at a $100,000 bond, noting that his parents are recovering after being involved in a serious motorcycle accident near Plattsburgh in late September.
"He lives with his parents and they are mortgaged and maxed to the hilt to defend this case," she said.
She said the defense will also consider asking for a change in venue, based on the amount of publicity the case has received in the Lake George region -- particularly, she said, Warren County Sheriff Nathan York's three press conferences about the case.
The most serious charge, second-degree manslaughter, could result in a sentence of up to a 15 years in state prison.
West is also charged with second-degree assault for recklessly causing serious physical injury to the girl’s mother, Courtney McCue. The McCues, from Carlsbad, California, were visiting the girl’s grandparents at Lake George at the time of the crash.
Other charges against West include first- and second-degree vehicular assault, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an injury accident without reporting it, boating with ability impaired by both alcohol and drugs, reckless operation of a vehicle and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, cocaine.
York said in August that three different kinds of drugs were found in West’s system.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan reiterated that statement in court on Wednesday, and also said cocaine residue was found in West's boat.
Hogan also referred to a high-quality surveillance video showing the crash that is currently sealed under a court order.
"Our case is extremely strong," Hogan said.
Hall told the defense to submit all motions regarding the case by Dec. 9, after which the district attorney's office will have two weeks to respond.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, firstname.lastname@example.org or @gazettesteve on Twitter.