FORT EDWARD -- Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan found Deana Olsen guilty Thursday of criminally negligent homicide and lesser counts in the August 2011 crash that killed a Kingsbury woman.

Olsen, 36, of Queensbury, was found to have been using a “portable electronic device” and driving recklessly when she went off Route 4 and hit Terry Brownell as she cut grass in front of her home on Aug. 27, 2011.

In addition to the felony count, McKeighan convicted Olsen of misdemeanor reckless driving and the traffic violations of using a handheld portable electronic device, reckless driving and failure to keep right.

Olsen bowed her head as she learned the verdict, and cried minutes later before she left court. Several loved ones of Brownell have been in court for the trial, one saying “It’s a little late” as Olsen wept.

Brownell’s mother and sister declined comment on the verdict as they left court.

McKeighan allowed Olsen to remain free on her own recognizance pending sentence March 28, though he warned her about contact with witnesses in the case after allegations arose that she confronted one of the people who testified against her.

She faces a maximum of 1-1/3 to 4 years in state prison when sentenced March 28.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said he plans to seek the maximum prison sentence.

“It’s a sad case,” he said. “Terry Brownell lost her life because of the defendant’s actions.”

Kortright said the case was an example of the consequences of distracted driving, and said Washington County has started a distracted driving education course through the county Alternative Sentencing Agency, in part because of Brownell’s death.

Olsen had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, but those charges were dismissed Wednesday during trial. A charge she drove under the influence of drugs, specifically marijuana and codeine, were also dismissed.

Her lawyer, Marc Zuckerman, said he was pleased that the judge saw that the weightier charges were not appropriate, but he said he believed she should not have been convicted of criminally negligent homicide, either.

“I still maintain my client didn’t commit any crime,” Zuckerman said. “It was a tragic accident.”

He said he had not discussed with his client whether the verdict would be appealed.

Olsen opted for a bench trial, where the judge decides guilt, instead of a jury trial.

The verdict came after a two-day trial in which two drivers testified that Olsen had passed multiple vehicles, tried to pass at least one vehicle in a no-passing zone and was driving aggressively before she lost control of the Jeep Cherokee she was driving.

The two also said it appeared Olsen had a device like a cellphone in her hands, one of them saying it appeared her hands were moving on the device moments before the crash.

The defense had tried to blame one of the drivers for Olsen losing control, saying he drove aggressively and kept her from passing by moving out of his lane. Zuckerman said the driver braked suddenly and that caused Olsen to lose control of her SUV.

Kortright, though, said that driver, Kalub Lavin, was not to blame.

The confrontation that prompted a warning from McKeighan occurred Wednesday afternoon in the county Municipal Center. The witness, Katie Ballard, works for the county, and for an unknown reason Olsen and her husband were walking in a hallway near her office Wednesday when they passed Ballard, Kortright said.

Olsen bumped against Ballard and was heard to say, “There’s the bitch that lied about me,” Kortright said.

Zuckerman, though, said Olsen said she did not have any contact with the witness and did not speak to her.

Olsen is free on her own recognizance pending sentencing.

(19) comments

Mow72
Mow72

I'm glad that Olsen has been found guilty and I hope she gets the maximum ,not just a couple of months. Even that will not be enough..

woodsplitter
woodsplitter

I can only hope she gets the maximum that she can get,in jail.I don't really think that is enough.People need to realize you pull over before talking on the phone.It will distract you and someone died in this case,probably someones mother.

5756917
5756917

Cannot believe this woman is getting everything reduced. And then she goes and confronts one of the witnesses who testified against her? She deserves to spend 10 years in jail.

politicoQB
politicoQB

Zuckerman: "My client did nothing wrong. There should not even be a negligence charge..."
Ahhm, excuse me? This woman drives over an other human being and kills her, and you feel charges should be dismissed? Holy Toledo.
I'd love to hear what tirade he'd use telling her woeful tale of death and destruction if Zuckerman were Ms. Brownell's family's lawyer...hooboy different story then I bet.

Key
Key

I don't understand why the blood test evidence was not admissible. The defense has admitted that she was taking Codeine, which is a narcotic; it is unsafe to drive under the influence of a narcotic. I find it disturbing that she has been accused of confronting a witness in the hall of the courthouse. If so, that is an indication that she feels that she is above the law.

Reader71
Reader71

It is interesting that there was a conviction regarding the cell phone use considering the phone was out of the defendants possession and and in an "unknown" witnesses hands before seized by police. This becomes a question of chain of custody. It is possible and it should have been considered that this unidentified witness (as pointed out by Dep. Hurlburt did not know who gave him the phone) may have inadvertently pushed buttons on the phone. If Dep. Hurlburt had written down who had given him the phone, perhaps that witness could have been called and questioned. There is doubt here because one of the witnesses who stated that she had contacted the defendant (9 minutes before the 911 call) stated that the defendant did not call or text her back. This would indicate that the phone was not being used. Testimony did reveal that after the accident the defendant asked for her phone but did so in an effort to contact her husband.

Key
Key

The major point is that an innocent woman was killed by the defendant. The judge found the defendant was guilty.

Reader71
Reader71

I also found it interesting that the witness that magically appeared in the eleventh hour worked in the very same building as the District Attorney. I am familiar with the building and it is a minute to two minute walk from the witness's office to the District Attorney's Office and a five minute walk to the Washington County Sheriff's Office. For 18 months, this person never contacts Kevin Kortright or the investigators in this case even though she was aware this case was in the news (print and television coverage) and could have walked down the hall at anytime to tell them what she saw? This is on top of her statements where she stated a black car was run off the road by the defendant which she witnessed in the accident moments later. She stops and never tell the investigators at the scene? This is incredibly suspect. How hard would it have been for investigators to pull 911 calls of the car driven off the road? Why didn't she come forward sooner?

Key
Key

The main focus of concern should be on the victim, not attacking the witnesses.

Reader71
Reader71

It looks as though this Ballard person wants her 15 minutes of fame.

Key
Key

That is unkind. We do not know that she had any ulterior motive.

noeller
noeller

This is a sad case. It sad because a woman lost her life, it's sad because you can go out and take a life from someone these days and it gets reduced to things like failure to stay right? This world is in a lot of trouble!

whiteletter68
whiteletter68

Given her demeanor, attitude and ridiculous defense, this woman is VERY fortunate in escaping a much longer prison sentence. She undoubtedly deserves the maximum sentence allowed by the law! Her pitiful and disgusting defenders should be ridiculed, and hide their heads in shame!

Reader71
Reader71

Yes, why don't we attack people who don't agree with angry masses and instead ask common sense questions when something doesn't add up. I read these comments and I sometimes that we live in the United States. I respect other people's opinions and would not ridicule them for it. We can respectfully disagree without reducing ourselves to childish behavior.

Reality_Check
Reality_Check

Key & Reader71 - are either of you an attorney? Stop pretending...

Reader71
Reader71

"reality" check, to answer your question, no, I am not an attorney. In my profession I do know something of the law, how it works and how investigations should be conducted. I understand that when a crime is alleged, there are elements of that crime that must be proven by the government. That burden of beyond a reasonable doubt is only achieved through thorough investigations in which evidence is preserved and not mishandled. We are also innocent until proven guilty. These rights that we do enjoy were put in place by our forefathers to protect us from government authorities which might abuse their power. I believe in these ideals and served my country defending them. So when evidence is so grossly mishandled that a Judge dismisses four felony counts against an individual, you must ask yourself why. When digital evidence (in this case cell phone records) are lost because law enforcement officers do not know how to properly collect and handle it, then we should ask why.

Reader71
Reader71

If we were meant to go through life with blinders on, why do we have the rights afforded us under the Constitution? Or is the Constitution and the ideals in which the United States founded some sort of insignificant joke? This forum is proof that it works to a degree. First Amendment of Free Speech is a wonderful thing. It is a pity that the majority of those who chose to exercise this right do so not to further discourse but to unleash a less than stellar argument defending their perception of what is right and wrong and not what is truth.

cutwaste
cutwaste

The verdict will most likely be appealed as the attorney made a huge mistake by asking for a bench trial rather than a jury trial.

pbear01
pbear01

Learn to drive people!

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