Drue pleads guilty to all charges in fatal Northway crash
Posted at: 09/27/2013 11:32 AM
| Updated at: 09/27/2013 7:00 PM
By: Mark Mulholland, Dan Bazile, and Chris Rooney
Dennis Drue pleaded guilty in connection to the crash that killed two Shenendehowa High School students.
BALLSTON SPA – Dennis Drue, the man behind the wheel of the car that collided with an SUV, killing two Shenendehowa High School students -- is going to prison. Drue, 23, is expected to receive five to 15 years when he’s sentenced on Dec. 5.
In court Friday morning, Dennis Drue spoke only when the judge asked him if he was guilty or not guilty.
14 times, Drue simply said "guilty," satisfying all 58 charges against him.
Drue admitted driving after drinking and smoking pot. He also admitted to texting at the wheel and speeding. Prosecutors say he was driving 80-miles per hour when he crashed his Volvo into a Ford Explorer carrying four innocent teens, killing two of them, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers.
The guilty plea came as a surprise. Drue had maintained his innocence, even accusing police of fabricating some of the accusations. But with jury selection to begin Monday, attorney Stephen Coffey said his client had a "come to Jesus moment."
"It's a sad day. It's a devastating case. It's a horrible tragedy. And in talking to Dennis, we realize it was in his best interest to plead," said Coffey.
Attorney Coffey says his inability to get the emotional high-profile case moved out of Saratoga County was a major factor in deciding to plead. As was the judge's decision to sentence Drue to 5 to 15 years, much less than the 8 and a third to 25 he faced if convicted at trial. Coffey says the 5 to 15 was an offer made by the District Attorney several weeks ago.
"So this 5 to 15 offer is not something Judge S came up with out of thin air. It was something that had been previously discussed," the defense attorney said.
But Saratoga County D.A. Jim Murphy says the offer was made before evidence recently began to mount against Drue.
"The case got stronger," Murphy said. "Additional witnesses came forward. We had a family that saw the defendant in a restaurant and recognized him as being drunk."
Murphy plans to ask Judge Jerry Scarano for a stiffer sentence. The judge says he'll stick with the 5 to 15.
Over the objections of Jim Davis, assistant district attorney, Scarano also allowed Drue to remain free on $50-thousand dollars bond. As Drue left court Friday, he wasn't talking, only uttering "No comment," when asked if he'd like to say something.
Families of the victims were in court to hear Drue enter his guilty plea. Many of them were wearing green and white Shenendehowa football shirts.
In the days following the accident, there was an outpouring of support from the community for the victims and their families. Thousands of people attended a memorial on the Shenendehowa football field. There were other memorials and special events in the weeks that followed.
In addition to his time behind bars, Drue will have to use an ignition interlock device on cars he drives for three years after his release.