Discrepancies have been found in toxicology results for a according to the attorney representing her.
Gerald Saluti brought up a difference in the blood alcohol content of two results at status conference for his client, Vanessa E. Brown, on Monday morning at the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown. Saluti also said on Monday he planned to challenge the prosecution's contention that Brown had ingested cocaine, while the prosecution said it has information that Brown had been involved in another accident prior to the fatal crash.
Brown, 32, is facing charges of aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide for her alleged role in the May 5 death of Ralph Politi Jr. If found guilty on both charges, Brown could receive a sentence of as much as 40 years in prison.
During her Aug. 14 arraignment, Brown pleaded not guilty to the charges. Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Kelley Lavery indicated then that blood tests showed that the defendant was intoxicated on May 5 as a result of alcohol use and impaired from ingesting cocaine.
But in Monday's status conference, defense attorney Saluti told Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto that while the New Jersey police lab showed his client's blood alcohol content to be .133, a Pennsylvania lab registered her BAC as .113.
"That's a major difference," Saluti said.
Lavery acknowledged that a discrepancy did exist.
Saluti added that he planned to challenge the prosecution's Aug. 14 contention that Brown had ingested cocaine prior to the crash.
"I will be filing a motion to preclude the state from presenting the cocaine matabolites [evidence] in the case because it would be prejudicial," he said.
Both attorneys said they were awaiting further reports from forensic toxicologists.
Lavery told Ahto that the prosecutor's office is looking into Brown's activities prior to the crash.
The assistant prosecutor said that about two hours before the fatal accident, Brown was involved in another motor vehicle crash. This time, Lavery said, she was driving on Troy Road and, while trying to make a U-turn, ended up on a residential lawn, causing damage to her car.
Lavery told the judge that Brown also attended a first communion ceremony and that witnesses would testify that she exhibited slurred speech.
Additionally, he said that the prosecution has a surveillance video showing the accident that killed Politi, along with a report of a prior DUI in 2009.
"This establishes her conscious disregard," Lavery said. "She knew the consequences of her actions."
The assistant prosecutor reiterated the basics of the case: On May 5, Brown, who allegedly had alcohol and cocaine in her system, moved from the right lane of Ridgedale and veered left until smashing into Politi outside of his business, All Jersey Garage Door at 30 Ridgedale Ave. in East Hanover. Her car reportedly kept moving until it slammed into nearby parked cars.
"There was a possibility of her causing another death," Lavery said. "That's why the charge of aggravated [manslaughter]."
According to Lavery, "A witness saw her go through the intersection [with her] front fender dragging on the ground following her previous accident."
Saluti said that at the next status conference hearing, he would address a possible issue involving Brown's Miranda rights.
"I'll [also] make a bail motion on behalf of my client that would reduce her bail so she can actually make it, and include a component to put her into an inpatient drug program while awaiting trial," he said. "We're working on that now."
Assistant Prosecutor Lavery said his department would try to get a plea deal with Brown on one of the counts against her.
"We flatly reject that," Saluti said.
Brown made an appearance in Ahto's courtroom Monday morning. Her dark hair in a tight bun piled on top of her head, she appeared thin in an orange jumpsuit. Her hands and feet were chained together.
Though she remained silent and appeared serious and attentive throughout the status conference, she did smile at her attorney and gave silent acknowledgement to her relatives sitting in the courtroom.
Ahto set the next status conference for Nov. 5. He instructed both attorneys to have their reports filed and expert interviews completed.