The man police say is responsible for causing a deadly car crash on the Northway that killed two Shenendehowa High School students has been arraigned. Our Matt Hunter joined us from Ballston Spa with more on why Dennis Drue, 22, is facing nearly 60 charges.
BALLSTON SPA, NY – More than a full month after New York State Police investigators say he drove the car that caused a Northway crash that claimed the lives of two 17-year-old Shenendehowa High School seniors, 22-year-old Dennis Drue answered to a 59-count indictment in Saratoga County Court on Monday.
“He had a quantity of marijuana that was actively affecting his brain and it was actively affecting his ability to drive that motor vehicle,” Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said, following the arraignment.
After weeks of grand jury proceedings, the Clifton Park resident was arrested Friday and is now charged with 20 counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of first degree vehicular manslaughter, one count of driving while ability impaired by alcohol or drugs, one count of illegal possession of drug paraphernalia and more than two dozen other charges.
While he tested below the legal limit for alcohol several hours after the December 1st crash that claimed the lives of Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers and injured fellow Shenendehowa student Matthew Hardy and Shaker senior Bailey Wind, State Police investigators maintain Drue was legally drunk at the time of the crash and under the influence of marijuana.
“Based on what we can determine with the evidence that’s been recovered, that’s the viable determination that we’ve come to,” said State Police Captain Steven James, who’s lead the investigator for Troop G’s bureau of criminal investigation unit.
Drue pleaded not guilty to all 59 charges, which includes 52 felonies. His defense attorney, Stephen Coffey, says he’s yet to gain access to police reports or evidence and believes all of the counts hold no weight.
“They can put anything they want in a grand jury,” Coffey said. “They can charge him with anything they wanted. I have no reason to believe there were crimes committed, based on the info I have.”
According to assistant prosecutors, who handled the case Monday for the county district attorney’s office, while in police custody Drue told investigators:
“The charges are bogus and trumped up. This is all being done so I can be panned in front of cameras.”
While he would not confirm the statements, Coffey maintains his client is taking the proceedings seriously and that they both expect nothing less than him to be cleared of any guilt.
“We don’t intend, and I want to make this very clear, to go 58 out of 59. That plea is to all 59 counts,” Coffey said.
“This case could not be more important to us, it could not be more important to the families who we have spoken and it is extraordinarily important that we make sure justice is done."
If convicted of all 59 charges, Drue faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Following his arraignment, Drue posted bail and was released on his own free will.
While no future court date has been set, Coffey said he’s considering applying to have the trial moved out of Saratoga County because of the attention it’s received from the public and media. Murphy says he believes that measure is unnecessary.
- 20 Counts - Aggravated Vehicular Homicide (Class B felony)
- 4 Counts - Vehicular Manslaughter in 1st degree (Class C felony)
- 2 Counts - 2nd Degree Manslaughter (Class C felony
- 4 counts - Aggravated Vehicular Assault (Class C Felony)
- 8 counts - 2nd Degree Vehicular Manslaughter (Class D felony
- 1 count - 2nd Degree Vehicular Manslaughter (Class D felony)
- 4 counts - 1st Degree Vehicular Assault (Class D felony)
- 2 counts - 2nd Degree Assault (Class D felony)
- 8 Counts - 2nd Vehicular assault (Class E felony)
- 1 count - 2nd degree criminally using drug paraphernalia (Class A Misdemeanor
- 1 count - Driving while ability impaired by combined influence of drugs/alcohol (misdemeanor)
- 1 count driving while ability impaired by drugs (misdemeanor)
- 2 counts - driving while intoxicated (misdemeanor)
- 1 count - reckless driving (misdemeanor)
- 1 count - unlawful possession of marijuana (misdemeanor)
Watch the press conference in its entirety:
Albany/HV: Drue pleads not guilty to 59 counts, including 52 felonies
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