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What you need to know for 05/22/2017

Boat crash trial testimony focuses on drug use

Boat crash trial testimony focuses on drug use

Testimony continues in 2nd week
Boat crash trial testimony focuses on drug use
Alexander West listens to opening statements during his trial in Warren County Court on the July 25 fatal boat crash.
Photographer: SHAWN LACHAPELLE/POOL

Montana Reilly admitted Wednesday in court to having been in an intimate relationship with Alexander West.

The day before, she told a Warren County jury that West was acting “flirty” on a boat ride to a restaurant, following a day of partying at Log Bay Day on July 25. His behavior made her think he was intoxicated.

West, 25, of Lake George, is standing trial on charges that accuse him of crashing a powerboat under the influence of alcohol and drugs that night. The collision with an antique wooden boat resulted in the death of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, who was riding in the second boat with her grandparents, mother, father and two siblings. 

“It’s been probably 15 years since I’ve flirted with anybody or anybody’s flirted with me,” defense attorney Cheryl Coleman told reporters after court, noting her age, 62, and that she’s married. “But back in the flirting days, flirting used to, to me, imply that you hadn’t been somewhere with somebody and you were trying to get to that place.” 

Saying West was flirting with her when they were in an intimate relationship "absolutely blows the foundation for (Reilly's) observations away because that’s the only thing she said that made her think that he was intoxicated,” Coleman said.

Reilly’s time on the witness stand Wednesday was brief, but it was long enough for Coleman to also reveal that Reilly's relationship with West didn't end well. Coleman suggested that shows Reilly was biased against him.

“I don’t say this to embarrass you, but to be fair, you and Alex have had an on-and-off intimate relationship. Fair?” Coleman asked.

“Yes,” Reilly replied in a low voice. 

“And it ended badly because of a girl named Emma, correct?” Coleman pressed.

“Yes," Reilly answered

Asked if there was animosity as a result, Reilly said there was between herself and Emma — “but not between myself and Alex.”

"I was a lady to her," Coleman later told reporters. "It could have been much more detailed than it was."

Reilly is one of several witnesses who have testified during the trial — now in its second week — about seeing West drinking alcohol or using drugs. All of those witnesses have been unable to describe any signs that West was intoxicated that day. 

Testimony about West’s level of impairment is important to the case because blood tests that showed marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy in West's system after he crashed the boat have been disallowed as evidence. The evidence was suppressed because a search warrant directing sheriff’s deputies to sample West’s blood did not meet the technical requirements of criminal procedure law.

“The whole tenor of the District Attorney’s case is: Everybody does this stuff at Log Bay Day,” Coleman said. “Alex was at Log Bay Day, therefore Alex must have done this stuff. When people are asked, 'Did you see it?' The answer is no.”

Dan Forshay, who has known West for more than 10 years but would only call him an acquaintance in court Wednesday, said West had marijuana on him the day of the crash. He also said West’s boat was emanating an odor of marijuana, but he couldn’t recall seeing West smoke it. He was the second, and only new witness, to testify Wednesday -- a short day in court that ended at noon. 

“It wasn’t just that boat; it was everywhere,” he said of the marijuana odor. “It’s Log Bay Day.”


 

Recap of Wednesday's testimony

 


Forshay said he met up with West before the annual summer party, and that West had asked Forshay if he could catch a ride on Forshay's boat. That would have kept West's boat off the water that night. 

“My boat was full,” Forshay said.  

Forshay recalled docking his boat in the shallow bay that morning and hanging bumpers over its side, preparing to tie up to West’s boat. That’s when Matthew Marry, who rode in with West, offered him a concentrated form of marijuana. 

“He said, ‘Hey, what’s up? Do you want a dab?’” Forshay recalled. “I said, ‘Does a bear [defecate] in the woods?'”

West had just walked his boat past rows of others to the shallow area near the shore, Forshay said.

“He said, ‘I have fairly good dabs,'” Forshay recalled. “He pulled them out of his pocket and realized they got wet.”

Forshay wore a black, long-sleeved shirt and wind pants in court and appeared uninterested at times, often folding his arms. He gave the jury a verbal lesson in smoking dabs of hash, a waxy, concentrated form of marijuana, saying it can be done with “any kind of paraphernalia — a rig or a bong that has either a piece of crystal or metal on it that you heat.” He said he learned about dabs when he lived in Colorado from 2013 to 2015 and has been smoking marijuana for 13 years. 

Forshay said that, before Log Bay Day, he last saw West at the July 4th Phish concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Cara Mia Canale, who testified last week that she saw West doing cocaine and dabs during the Log Bay Day party, said she met West at the same concert. 

Forshay also testified he snorted cocaine that day with his wife “to keep the drinking at bay.”

“It makes you think that you’re not as drunk as you are, in my personal experience,” Forshay said.

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Alexander West leaves Warren County Court on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (NED CAMPBELL)

He added that using cocaine makes one feel energetic and more aware; he also described the feeling when the high wears off.

“You start feeling negative,” he said. “You think everything’s bad. Your body’s tired. Your mind’s tired.”

Asked how much cocaine he did, he said, “It depends on what a lot is to some people. I had one gram."

He also corrected Coleman, who assumed he did lines of cocaine that day.

“We weren't doing lines; we did key bumps,” he said. 

Forshay, who works as a boat mechanic at a Bolton Landing marina, said he called police when he heard about the crash the next morning.

“I work for a lot of people in the area that have boats in the industry, and it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Coleman later asked Forshay if, in trying to do the right thing, he also told police that he used cocaine and drove a boat while intoxicated that day, which he also admitted to doing in court. He volunteered that he had crashed his boat years ago and reported it, before admitting that he did not share those details with the police after the crash.

“You were interested in helping yourself,” Coleman said.

She also got him to admit that he was told by prosecutors that if he testified, he wouldn’t be prosecuted for using cocaine.

“You were assured by DA that you wouldn’t get in any legal trouble yourself by the things you said, right?”

He affirmed that.

“You did not reveal any illegality about yourself until you received that assurance," Coleman said.

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