HALFMOON — Closing statements were given Thursday in the trial of John Cole, owner of a chain of area collision shops, whose car slammed into a tree in Halfmoon on March 11, 2017, leaving a passenger paralyzed.
Cole, of Clifton Park, is facing second-degree assault, second-degree vehicular assault, driving while intoxicated and reckless driving charges in connection with the crash on Sitterly Road that left Deanna Shapiro paralyzed.
The first full day of testimony began on March 8 in Saratoga County Court in Ballston Spa.
On March 8, Shapiro testified that she got into the car Cole was driving last March with her husband, Scott, and Cole's wife, Regina. She said she consumed alcohol while out that night, and that Cole told her he drank water throughout the evening before getting behind the wheel.
Shapiro said she was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, and that the car went into the trees.
On Monday, Saratoga County Court Judge James Murphy chastised Cole for a public relations campaign the judge suggested was aimed at highlighting Cole's company's philanthropic deeds in an effort to influence the outcome of his case.
Cheryl Coleman, Cole's attorney, sought a dismissal of the charges against her client before deliberations began, which Murphy denied.
On Thursday, Coleman urged the jury in her closing statements to find Cole not guilty.
"Whether or not you think John Cole is innocent -- that this was an accident -- or whether you just don't know or think he's probably guilty, none of you can say the [prosecutor] has proven recklessness driving and assault and DWI beyond a reasonable doubt.
"No matter where you fall on that opinion spectrum, your verdict must be not guilty."
In Assistant District Attorney Katherine DeMartino's closing statements, she said Cole's wife, Regina, described what it was like to be in Cole's car on the night of the crash.
"She told us she couldn't tell if they were driving faster than 40 miles per hour," DeMartino said. "She remembers seeing something out of the corner of her eye and that an object flew out in front of the car. She ducked down and didn't look up until the car stopped, because John Cole lost control of the car."
DeMartino added, "I doesn't matter if the car hit a pile of trusses or a tree, because the impact of that collision caused this damage and, because of the impact, Deanna Shapiro will never walk again. So it doesn't matter. The defendant's reckless conduct caused this crash."
Jury deliberations began shortly before 2:30 p.m. on and were expected to continue on Friday.