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Judge denies Cole's final attempt to appeal case

Judge denies Cole's final attempt to appeal case

Capital Region businessman sentenced to seven years for assault and impaired driving
Judge denies Cole's final attempt to appeal case
John Cole and his attorney Cheryl Coleman in court in March 2018.
Photographer: Erica Miller

A judge with the state's top court on Tuesday rejected a bid for a final appeal by a Saratoga County man who was convicted of assault and impaired driving after a crash that left one of his passengers paralyzed.

John W. Cole of Clifton Park was seeking one final appeal before the state Court of Appeals, but he was denied by Judge Rowan D. Wilson.

Instead, Cole will have to surrender Wednesday to begin serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Cole, the owner of a Capital Region chain of auto-collision shops, was tried in Saratoga County Court in early 2018 and convicted for the March 11, 2017, crash in Halfmoon. The crash left his passenger and friend paralyzed from the waist-down. He was later sentenced by Saratoga County Court Judge James A. Murphy III to seven years in prison, the maximum sentence that could have been handed down.

Cole appealed his conviction and sentence to the Third Department Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Albany, but was rejected in a 4-0 ruling issued last week.

Based on the appellate court's unanimous ruling last week, Cole was required to seek permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals, but that was denied Tuesday.

In his appeal, Cole was represented by Paul Schechtman, a New York City attorney. After Tuesday's denial, Schechtman said Cole, 54, would appear in court as scheduled, at noon in front of Judge Murphy to commence his prison term.

Following a two-week trial in March 2018, a jury in Saratoga County convicted Cole of assault and driving while ability impaired in connection with the crash. The same jury acquitted Cole of driving while intoxicated and vehicular assault.

According to trial testimony, on the night of the crash on Sitterly Road, Cole, his wife and several friends had dinner at the Rusty Nail in Clifton Park before going to see a band play at Trick Shot Billiards and Sports Pub, also in Clifton Park.

Cole, who was driving a 2015 BMW 650i, was accused of accelerating the vehicle on Sitterly Road despite passengers urging him to slow down, leading to the vehicle going off the road and shearing a fire hydrant near an area where construction was going on. According to testimony, a state police investigation estimated his vehicle was traveling 78 mph in a 40 mph zone. The crash left passenger Deanna Shapiro paralyzed from the neck down.

While Deanna's husband, Scott, testified that Cole had been drinking alcohol through the evening, Cole's wife, Regina, testified that her husband "acted totally fine and was fine to drive" when they left Trick Shots. A state trooper testified that Cole appeared to be intoxicated, although he refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

The case was also marred by what Murphy suggested to be a media campaign, orchestrated by Cole's company, Cole's Collision, meant to sway the outcome of his case.

That included working with a public relations firm and a handful of charities, which later distanced themselves from Cole, as well as multiple television spots, which were playing during the trial.

Cole has been free on $50,000 bond pending the outcome of the appeal. 

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