July 17, 2012
DWI lawyer hired in fatality
Tom Anelli defending 21-year-old charged with manslaughter
TRUXTON — A Truxton man accused of killing another man in a crash on Route 13 has hired a defense lawyer from Syracuse, whose firm specializes in drunken driving cases.
Derek Manwarren, 21, will be defended by attorney Tom Anelli, whose website also calls him the “DWI Guy.” Anelli has offices in Syracuse and Albany, and his legal team defends only drunken driving cases.
Anelli said last week that Manwarren’s family hired him to defend against charges that Manwarren struck and killed Brian Cook, 26, of Fabius, as Cook was trying to change a flat tire on the east shoulder of the road.
The incident occurred just before 3 a.m. June 6 in Truxton.
Manwarren is charged with a felony count of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated, and a violation for consuming alcohol in a vehicle.
Anelli said he expects a lengthy defense investigation to unfold during the coming months.
“We’re working accident investigators and engineers,” Anelli said Thursday, noting the early stage of his defense centers around the science of the crash.
“We’ve been to the site (of the crash) multiple times, doing our own analysis and we’re trying to figure out what transpired that evening, and why it happened,” he said.
Anelli has been a legal commentator on the former Court TV station and has authored a book on understanding DWI laws, according to his website.
Cook was struck while trying to change a rear flat tire on a friend’s pickup truck parked on the east side of the road, authorities and witnesses at the scene said. People in a second pickup had stopped to help, authorities and witnesses at the scene said.
Cook, a passenger in the second truck, was killed after being struck by the vehicle driven by Manwarren, who was driving northeast. Police said Manwarren’s vehicle rear-ended one vehicle and then struck the other, also hitting Cook.
It remained unclear this week how drunk Manwarren allegedly was. The Truxton town judge was out of town last week and was unable to answer a reporter’s request for court documents in the case.
Anelli said it is too early to discuss where he expects the defense to go. He said it could take several months, as there are still many records to review.
“There’s a great deal to do with an accident of this sort, and we hope to determine what happened so he doesn’t get convicted of something he didn’t do,” Anelli said.
The people in all three vehicles had been at downtown Cortland the night of the crash, according to witnesses. The other two drivers had not been drinking, witnesses said. A post that evening on Manwarren’s Facebook page said “2 for 1 at the bar,” adding he would be there, without saying which bar. His Facebook page has since been removed.
Manwarren is being held in the Cortland County Jail with bail set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. His next scheduled appearance in Truxton Town Court was unavailable.
Anelli said Manwarren is a young man who has no criminal record and no prior alcohol-related incidents in the criminal justice system.
“He seems like a very genuine and caring young man,” Anelli said. “It’s a tragedy from all sides and were trying to make sure justice is served, whichever way that may be.”
Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben declined Monday to discuss specifics of the Manwarren case because it remains a pending investigation. Suben said his office is awaiting a report from accident reconstructionists.
Manwarren could go to state prison if convicted of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, which is punishable by up to seven years.
A week after the crash, three wooden crosses still stand as a memorial to Cook. They were erected by friends and family, who adorned them with photos, mementos, and other personal items unique to Cook. Friends and family of Cook gathered at the scene of the crash July 9 to erect the memorial.
Several feet from Cook’s memorial are the tire skid marks from the crash. The skid marks keep going after the apparent point of impact and swerve slightly by a nearby culvert.
Some debris, including bits of shattered headlights, were still visible along the roadside a week after the crash.
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