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What you need to know for 05/22/2017

Witnesses recall annual party that preceded fatal boat crash

Witnesses recall annual party that preceded fatal boat crash

Photos on display in court
Witnesses recall annual party that preceded fatal boat crash
Boats moored in Log Bay on Lake George for the annual summer party known as Log Bay Day in 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

QUEENSBURY — Christina Parrotta was at her first Log Bay Day last summer when Alexander West invited her into the cuddy of his boat to snort cocaine, she told a Warren County jury Tuesday.

Parrotta said she entered the cabin and “did a line of cocaine,” but she didn’t remember how much cocaine West consumed.

West, 25, is accused of crashing his boat later that night, July 25, into another boat and causing the death of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, who was riding with her family near Cramer Point. 

“I know what I did — a line,” said Parrotta, 27, who knew West through her “best friend,” Christine Tiger. 

Asked by West’s attorney, Cheryl Coleman, how the cocaine made her feel, she said: “It made me happy. I wanted to have a good time. It made me more alert.”

The high didn’t last long; they consumed the cocaine shortly after 2 p.m. and the feeling was gone by dinnertime, she said. Parrotta said she was subpoenaed by prosecutors two weeks ago to testify in the trial. 

“I didn’t want to be involved; I’m here by law,” she said.

Montana Reilly, 25, also received a invitation from West to do cocaine in the cuddy about 11 a.m., she said in court. 

“We went in and did a line of cocaine,” she said.

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Alexander West leaves Warren County Court on Tuesday. (NED CAMPBELL)

It made her feel “awake,” she later told Coleman. “And like I wanted to go walk around, go do things.”

She also said she saw Matthew Marry smoking hash oil, a waxy form of concentrated pot, alongside West in his boat, but could not recall West taking part.

“When I picture it in my head, I just see Matt smoking it,” she said. 

Parrotta and Reilly were among four witnesses who testified about the annual Log Bay Day summer party in court Tuesday morning.  

“It’s a party that people go to on a Monday,” said Jennifer Spahn, 25, who went on to describe photographs she took of people partying in the shallow bay that day. The photos were displayed in court, and in them, boats can be seen tied together. The boat she arrived in was tied to West’s 21-foot Larson powerboat during the party.

“I had a selfie stick, so we were just taking random pictures,” she told the jury.

The photographs included three taken at 2:27 p.m. showing West drinking a beer.

She told Coleman, however, that West didn’t appear to be impaired by alcohol or any other substance when she saw him that day. She also said she saw a Bud Light in West’s hand, but that she “never saw him sip.”

“All you can tell us with certainty is that he had a beer,” Coleman said.

One picture shown Tuesday offered glimpses of Reilly sitting next to West on the back of a moving boat. It was about 6:30 p.m. and they were on their way to a restaurant for dinner after a day of partying in the bay. 

“I would say that he had been drinking,” Reilly said. “He was just, like, flirty.”

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She said he continued to drink at the restaurant — ordering and finishing two Moscow mules. She ordered a beer and they both ordered potstickers to eat. She said they paid together; their receipt, labeled 8:37 p.m., includes two Moscow mules and one beer. The fatal boat crash was reported shortly after 9:20 p.m. 

Pressed by Coleman to describe how West was acting, Reilly said his speech didn’t appear slurred and she couldn’t remember if he showed a loss of motor skills.

Coleman pointed out that Reilly was intoxicated at the time, which Reilly admitted. She said she drank jungle juice — a combination of champagne, vodka, rum and fruit punch — throughout the day along with a couple of beers before going to the restaurant. 

“You gave an opinion on his condition and I want to know what it was based on,” Coleman said.

Reilly’s testimony was interrupted when a juror started to cough uncontrollably; the time was 4:40 p.m. and Judge John Hall decided to dismiss the jury for the day.

Coleman told reporters that there would be more to learn about Reilly on Wednesday “that’s going to absolutely have significant impact on her credibility.”

“If I said on the air what it’s about, she might not come back tomorrow,” she said as television news cameras rolled. 


Latest updates from inside the courtroom


Another witness, Angelo Paccione, described Log Bay Day as a “drinking party.” He’s a sergeant with the Lake George Park Commission’s marine patrol who was monitoring the bay on July 25. 

“Most of the people that come there are young adults,” said Paccione, a retired New York City police officer who has worked the event for nine years. 

He said the job involves checking boaters for life jackets and registration as they arrive in the bay. There were 17 patrol vessels on the water that day, he said.

“It’s kind of a given by now that they know that we’re out there and that they need to have a sober driver when they are leaving,” he added. 

Paccione recalled responding that night to a boathouse on Cramer Point where Charlotte’s body was resting in a boat, covered by a blanket.

“When the blanket was pulled back, the male EMT took a look, and he said, ‘I’m calling this at this time,’” Paccione said.

That’s when he left the boathouse and came across a “physically shaken” Robert Knarr, Charlotte’s grandfather, who was driving the boat.

“I asked him what happened,” he said. “His response to me was a boat … struck us — went over the top of us. I was like, ‘And where is that boat now?’ He was like, ‘I don’t know. It kept going.’”

Looking at a picture of the damaged Gar Wood, Paccione pointed to white markings from West’s fiberglass hull on the antique boat’s right side toward the back. He identified it as the point of contact and said West’s boat overtook Knarr’s. 

“When it hits that boat, it goes up on it and jumps on it,” he said.

Paccione said that based on surveillance footage of the crash — which the jury saw Monday — West’s boat was “planing,” meaning it was going fast enough to have an elevated bow. He estimated the speed required to catch up the boat, which Knarr told police was going 10 mph, to be at least 25 mph — the lake’s nighttime speed limit.

“He’s right on top of him in no time, and you can see that the bow of the boat is up,” he said. 

Kathryn Conklin, another attorney representing West, said her client's boat could have been going twice the speed of the Gar Wood and stayed within the speed limit.

“They’re making assumptions about how the boats hit,” she also told reporters. “[Paccione] didn’t consider the fact that the Larson is sitting higher up.”

Conklin also said a police report Paccione helped draft states that no one on West’s boat served as lookouts but is silent about lookouts on the Gar Wood. 

“I think their report is completely one-sided,” she said. “They only were looking at the Larson.” 

Coleman said she has an expert in boating accident reconstruction ready to testify.

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