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Driver rejects plea deal in fatal high-speed crash

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Crouse enters court

Skyler Crouse enters court for a hearing in his manslaughter case on Feb. 26. The Akwesasne man rejected a plea deal in favor of going to trial for his role in a fatal high-speed crash after fleeing police on the Northway.

QUEENSBURY — The driver who was blamed for a high-speed crash that killed a Brant Lake businessman last fall rejected a plea offer Wednesday.

Skyler C. Crouse opted not to accept a plea deal for the chase and collision on the Northway Exit 25 off ramp on Sept. 26 that claimed the life of Joseph Turcotte. Turcotte’s pickup was hit from behind at an estimated 90 mph by a pickup driven by Crouse as Crouse fled from State Police.

Crouse turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in a state prison sentence of between 10 and 15 years. Warren County Judge John Hall outlined the offer to Crouse, and asked whether he wanted to accept it or have a trial, and Crouse replied, “Trial.”

Hall warned him that he faced a much lengthier prison term if convicted of the weightiest charges at trial, including up to 25 years for first-degree assault alone plus possible consecutive sentences for other charges.

“You can’t go back and say, ‘Wait judge, I want to back up to where we were in February,’” Hall explained.

Crouse, wearing a face covering known as a “spit shield” because he spit on a TV news cameraman the day of his arrest, replied that he understood.

He would have been required to plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter and attempted first-degree assault.

Judge upholds charges in Northway crash case

Trial in the case has been set for April 6, with pretrial hearings on March 20. Hall said he plans to issue a ruling on a request by Warren County prosecutors to compel Crouse to give a DNA sample for comparison to evidence at the crash scene.

The charges stem from the death of Turcotte, who had just gotten off the highway with a load of lumber for his family boat-building business when Crouse’s rented truck slammed into him.

Crouse, 30, of Akwesasne, has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment for the high-speed chase on the Northway that began in Queensbury.

State Police tried to stop him for driving 93 mph in a construction zone in the northbound lanes near Exit 18, and he fled north at speeds of up to 111 mph.

Police said Crouse ran several vehicles off the highway, and nearly hit a Warren County sheriff’s officer who tried to use tire deflation devices near Exit 23. State Police were able to use a tire deflation device on one of Crouse’s tires about a mile south of Exit 25, and Crouse continued on and got off the exit.

Police said he fled his heavily damaged truck on foot, but was arrested by officers in woods near the exit.

He later told police he was “insane,” was a heavy drug user and was late for a birthday party.

Turcotte was well-known in the Brant Lake area, and served on the Horicon Planning Board. His widow and other loved ones were in court Wednesday.

Don Lehman covers police and court matters, Warren County government and the outdoors. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or


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