PUTNAM-A state appeals court has ruled a Putnam man had no role in an under-age drinking party that led to the deaths of two teenagers.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court threw out the misdemeanor conviction against Jimmy Joe St. Andrews, but upheld the convictions against his wife, Kellie St. Andrews.
Both had been sentenced to 60 days in Washington County Jail, three years on probation and 100 hours of community service in connection with an April 20, 2008, under-age drinking party at their home.
Following the party, the St. Andrews' son, Dustin St. Andrews, who was then 17, took a group of partygoers on a car ride that ended with a crash that killed Shannon James, 16, of Ticonderoga, and Michaella Lopes, 16, of Enosburg, Vt.
The Washington County district attorney's office said Dustin St. Andrews acted with "depraved indifference to human life" before the crash by driving while intoxicated and under the influence of marijuana and driving 132 mph before his vehicle careened off Route 22 and flipped over several times.
Dustin St. Andrews was convicted of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and is serving a 2 1/2 to 7 1/2-year prison sentence.
The crash prompted an investigation and prosecution of his parents, who authorities said were present for the party.
The St. Andrewses pleaded not guilty and went to trial, but both were convicted of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child, and Mrs. St. Andrews was convicted of an additional charge of unlawfully dealing with a child.
Their lawyer on appeal, Robert Winn, argued the evidence against them was insufficient, and that the court should not have allowed the couple to be represented by one lawyer because of the potential conflict of interest between the defendants. Lawyer Mark Major represented them during the trial.
The Appellate Division found there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction of Mr. St. Andrews, finding that the witnesses who testified he was present during the party did not provide sufficient evidence that he was aware under-age drinking was taking place. The indictment against him was dismissed.
The appeals court found the evidence against Mrs. St. Andrews was sufficient to support the charges.
"Several witnesses testified that many underage individuals were drinking alcohol on defendant's property when she came outside, she approached the area where they were congregating, and they made no efforts to hide their alcohol consumption," Justice William McCarthy wrote.
The court found there were not different levels of culpability between the two defendants, so they legally could be represented by one lawyer.
Winn said he plans to ask the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, to hear Mrs. St. Andrews' case, arguing the couple should have had separate lawyers and that the evidence was also not sufficient to convict her.
Both served nearly seven days in jail in April 2009 before their sentences were stayed. Mrs. St. Andrews, 42, will have to serve the remainder of the term in the coming months, unless the Court of Appeals agrees to hear the case and stays her sentence again.
Dustin St. Andrews was denied parole when he became eligible and is eligible for release in December 2012.