QUEENSBURY — Alexander West was found guilty Monday afternoon of eight of 12 charges for last summer’s fatal boat crash, as the jury convicted him of the top charge and numerous lesser counts for the horrific collision that killed a young girl.
The jury found West guilty of the weightiest charge of second-degree manslaughter, as well as second-degree assault, criminally negligent homicide, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, reckless operation of a vessel, boating while ability impaired by alcohol and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Five of the charges are felonies.
West was found not guilty of vehicular manslaughter, two vehicular assault counts and boating while ability impaired by drugs for the two-boat crash on Lake George last July that claimed the life of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue and seriously injured her mother, Courtney McCue.
West was sent to Warren County Jail without bail, pending sentencing on June 5. He faces up to 7-1/3 to 22 years in prison.
Charlotte’s family met with media after the verdict, and her grandfather Robert Knarr thanked police, prosecutors and the community for support since the tragedy.
He was driving the boat that West hit and said the trial was almost as bad as the night of the crash in many ways, as family members were in shock that night and then had to relive it for weeks during the trial.
Knarr said Monday was the first day that West “faced his bad decisions.”
“Justice was served today and it was served well,” he said.
The jury deliberated for about 11 hours over two days before returning its verdict shortly after 2 p.m.
West bowed his head as the jury foreman read “guilty” to the first charge in the indictment, second-degree manslaughter. While it was a split verdict, he was found guilty of the weightiest charges, and charges for which consecutive sentences could be imposed.
His lawyer, Cheryl Coleman, said she will make an application to the Appellate Division of Supreme Court later this week to seek to have him released, pending appeal. Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said her office will oppose that request.
Coleman said she was “devastated” by the verdict and there are “huge appeal issues” that will be explored.
Coleman said “a little piece of our heart was broken today” by the verdict, and that she had a “bad feeling” when the jurors asked no questions about the leaving the scene of an accident charges. She said they were “prepared” for the possibility of convictions.
She said the case was also a lesson that “your life can change on a dime.”
Coleman added that there were numerous appeal issues, both in the evidence for recklessness that was needed for the manslaughter count and issues throughout the trial.
“We are going to pursue all legal avenues,” she said.
Family holds hands
The right side of the court gallery, behind the prosecution table, was packed as the jury came back into court, dozens of McCue and Knarr family members holding hands as the jury filed back into court. Warren County Judge John Hall had warned all in court that acting out would not be tolerated.
Several held hands later Monday afternoon as Knarr, his wife Christine Knarr, Courtney McCue, Eric McCue — her husband and father of Charlotte — and Keegan Knarr (corrected) accompanied Hogan to meet with media.
Hogan praised the police work to build the case against West, but also the Knarr family for handling the tragedy with grace and class.
The way they handled the horrific situation and love they showed toward each other inspired those in law enforcement as the case moved forward, Hogan added.
“They will never ever be the same, but they have each other,” Hogan said.
She said that her office will seek the maximum sentence, and will oppose the anticipated defense motion to have West released from jail pending appeal. She said she believed the trial was “a very clean record” with few appeal issues.
Hogan said she didn’t focus on the legal problem that resulted in her office withdrawing blood test results that showed West had marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy in his system 11 hours after the crash. Instead, “You play the cards your dealt.”
Among those cards was a lakeside home surveillance camera video that showed the crash, a camera that had been installed the day before the crash.
“The truth about what happened on July 25 is now known to everyone who watched this trial,” Hogan said.
Knarr wept as he spoke to media in the District Attorney’s Office as he spoke of his granddaughter. He bristled as he spoke about the defense attempts to blame him for the crash, which happened as he slowly approached his boathouse near Cramer Point.
He said any of those gathered with him on “Team Charlotte” would trade their lives to bring Charlotte back, but that the family was moved by the support they received, which included “thousands” of letters from around the country.
“This is a hollow victory for us because we don’t have Charlotte,” he said.
The panel had three questions for Warren County Judge John Hall during the morning, twice asking for the definition of “recklessly” as it pertained to the manslaughter and assault charges against West.
Jurors also asked for the legal elements of those charges, as well as the boating while impaired count West faced.
QUEENSBURY — In the end, the charge that gave the jury in the Alexander West case the hardes…
They started the day by hearing the read-back of testimony from two witnesses, Montana Reilly and Matt Peterson, who told of West’s drinking and apparent intoxication the day of the July 25 crash on Lake George.
The jury was focused on the homicide counts, but did not ask about the felony leaving the scene of an accident charges.
West, 25, of Lake George was accused of boating recklessly under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he drove his 21-foot Larson powerboat into a wooden powerboat driven by Knarr.
Charlotte was killed instantly when West’s boat went over the top of the one she was on, and her mother, Courtney McCue, was seriously hurt.
The jury heard from 40 witnesses over two weeks and reviewed nearly 100 pieces of evidence, including surveillance camera video of the boats colliding and a videotaped police interview of West in which he claimed he hadn’t used drugs but had one or two beers at Log Bay Day.
The case has led to an effort to crack down on Log Bay Day, the annual booze- and drug-fueled lake party on the east shore near Shelving Rock that West had attended, with law enforcement agencies planning to curtail it when the last Monday of July comes around this summer.
“Log Bay Day is no longer. It is over,” Hogan said Monday.