A former Yankee hero caught a break Thursday when a judge tossed out one of two manslaughter charges and told jurors they could even convict him of simple drunken-driving.
It was an emotional day for Jim Leyritz, 47, who is charged with killing 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch in a 2007 crash. He wept into his hands during closing arguments as prosecutor Stefanie Newman said he had time to stop before he slammed into Veitch’s car but was too drunk to react.
She pointed to evidence suggesting Leyritz had consumed 11 or 12 shots of tequila and vodka before he got behind the wheel.
“If he ran the light, and the victim had a green light, then he caused this crash,” Newman said. “He could have avoided this crash. He had a good four seconds of yellow to stop.”
Prosecution witnesses estimated that Leyritz’s blood-alcohol level was as high as 0.19 – more than twice Florida’s 0.08 limit.
Defense lawyer David Bogenschutz said the tests were “mishandled and unreliable” because they were taken three hours after the crash. He argued a concussion Leyritz suffered may have skewed the results.
Veitch also was drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 shortly after the crash.
Earlier, the defense convinced Judge Marc Gold to dismiss the charge of manslaughter while driving while impaired – arguing prosecutors didn’t prove he was physically incapable of driving.
Leyritz was still looking at a charge of manslaughter while driving under the influence, which is based on the level of alcohol in his blood, not his behavior.
The judge also told jurors they could consider a lesser charge of just driving under the influence.