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Cole appeals conviction related to crash that paralyzed friend

Mark Mulholland
Updated: October 16, 2019 10:29 AM
Created: October 15, 2019 06:10 PM

ALBANY - John Cole left court Tuesday afternoon without saying a word to a reporter who questioned him.

A few minutes earlier, Paul Shechtman, Cole's attorney, told Appellate Division judges that his client was not reckless on the night of the crash that left his friend paralyzed.

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"This is not a case in which someone is getting in a vehicle and saying to himself 'I shouldn't be driving,'" said Shechtman, a highly-regarded lawyer from New York City.

However, a jury convicted Cole of felony assault, finding the owner of several area autobody shops was drinking before driving his BMW 78 miles an hour in a 40-mph zone on Sitterly Road, and never hit the brakes.

"If Mr. Cole had made the non-reckless decision to take his foot off the accelerator and place it on the brake, we wouldn't have a catastrophic injury," Assistant District Attorney Gordon Eddy told the four judges.

The Shapiros were in court as Cole's attorney suggested they only testified they'd warned Cole to slow down after they talked to an attorney. "To be put on the spot like I'm making things up for financial gain, it's really sickening," said Scott Shapiro. "As we were driving, all three of us, my wife, Regina (Cole's wife), and myself all told John to slow down.  And to have them refute that, it's just frustrating because we were all in the same car and we all know exactly what happened."

Linda Henry, Dee Shapiro's mother said it's difficult to see Cole walk freely, pending the outcome of his appeal, while her daughter is sentenced to a lifetime in a wheelchair.

"It's very disheartening to see what she has to go through every day and him walking the streets, and living his life, doing what he wants to do."

Shechtman also told the judges that Cole's five prior felony convictions should not have been an issue at trial because they were more than 20 years earlier.

The Appellate Division typically decides cases about six weeks after they hear arguments.



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