Alexander West and his defense lawyer Cheryl Coleman listen to the jury’s verdict Monday, May 8, 2017, in a fatal boat crash case in Warren County Court in Queensbury, N.Y.. West, on trial for manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and 10 other charges stemming from the death last summer of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue, was found guilty of eight of 12 counts with the weightiest charge being second-degree manslaughter. (Shawn LaChapelle/The Post-Star via AP, Pool)
QUEENSBURY (AP) — An upstate New York man was convicted Monday in the boating death of an 8-year-old California girl who was vacationing with her family on an Adirondack lake last summer.
A Warren County jury found Alexander West, 25, guilty of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, boating while impaired by alcohol and leaving the scene of a crash.
The judge ordered him taken into custody without bail and set a June 5 sentencing date. The Lake George man faces a maximum sentence of 7 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
The charges stemmed from the death last July of Charlotte McCue of Carlsbad, California. Prosecutors say West was impaired by drugs and alcohol when his motor boat collided with the McCue family’s boat on Lake George the evening of July 25.
Jurors heard 12 days of testimony, including emotional accounts from Charlotte’s parents, Courtney and Eric McCue, and the girl’s grandfather, Robert Knarr. They told how they were approaching Knarr’s home on the lake’s shore after a twilight cruise when suddenly another boat slammed into theirs.
Authorities said West’s 21-foot fiberglass boat struck Knarr’s 28-foot Gar Wood in the right rear and flew over the antique wooden boat. Charlotte, sleeping with her head on her mother’s lap, was killed instantly when the airborne boat’s propeller struck her. Courtney McCue suffered serious injuries.
Authorities said West fled the scene and docked at a resort instead of at his own dock. An off-duty police officer from western New York who was vacationing there testified that he saw the boat being docked and heard the people on board talk about keeping quiet about something. He called police, who had been looking for a boat involved in an accident reported just minutes earlier.
Police said West hid out at a friend’s house, and didn’t show up at the sheriff’s office until about 12 hours after the crash. Neither he nor the three other people on his boat had reported the accident.
Cheryl Coleman, West’s attorney, said in her summation last week that the prosecution lacked evidence that West was intoxicated. She portrayed West as a “dumb kid” who panicked after the crash, which she called an “unspeakable tragedy” but not a crime.
District Attorney Kate Hogan said West would have been able to see the other boat if he hadn’t been impaired by drugs and alcohol.
The jury acquitted West of four counts, including vehicular manslaughter and boating while impaired by drugs.
Prosecutors said West and his friends had spent most of the day drinking and doing drugs at the annual Log Bay Day party. Started 20 years ago to give local tourism industry workers a chance to unwind, the party has grown into an event involving hundreds of people.
After the crash, local authorities vowed to take steps to end the party, but so far haven’t divulged how they’ll keep boaters from congregating in large numbers when Log Bay Day rolls around again this July.