Attorneys in vehicular manslaughter case move to dismiss after learning stenographer taped grand jury proceedings
A grand jury stenographer has allegedly been audio recording grand jury proceedings, which isn't legally permissible, and the attorneys for Jennifer L. Serrano think the stenographer's actions are enough to get a second-degree vehicular manslaughter charge dismissed.
The 48-year-old Serrano was charged following the Aug. 11 death of 18-year-old Connor Lynskey after a Jason Aldean concert in Darien.
"I was not aware of the recordings until recently and as a matter of an ethical obligation, I notified the defense attorneys involved," said District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.
While attorneys Frank LoTempio III, and Jack Sanchez have filed a motion seeking dismissal of the grand jury indictment against Serrano, Friedman doesn't believe the recordings jeopardize the case.
"We do not believe, regardless of what the court decides, it will result in the dismissal of the indictment or lead to anything that would delay the case."
Friedman has until April 5 to file his answer to the motion with the court and Judge Charles Zambito may conduct a hearing on the motion April 25 at 1:30 p.m. LoTempio and Sanchez have asked to put the stenographer on the stand at the hearing. It will be up to Zambito to decide if there should be a hearing and whether to call the stenographer to the stand.
The recordings, if made, are a potential violation of New York's Judiciary Law, though Friedman disagrees with the analysis by LoTempio and Sanchez that the recordings rise to the level of a misdemeanor. Friedman isn't anticipating any charges in the case.
Friedman's office had no prior knowledge of the recordings and did not benefit from the recordings. The stenographer is an independent contractor and is not employed by the District Attorney's Office.
The stenographer was using a shorthand machine manufactured with the recording capability built right into the device, which is why the DA's office was not aware of the recording being made. Such a mahcine may be permissible in other legal proceedings but in New York, not in a grand jury proceeding.
Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman discovered the fact that the recordings were being made and brought it to Friedman's attention.
Friedman and the ADAs in his office have notified defense attorneys about the recordings but he didn't have a count for how many cases that might involve. As for as his own cases, only one other defense attorney has filed a motion related to the recordings.
"The bottom line, I really believe, is this is not going to be an issue that is going to impact cases," Friedman said. "We’re not concerned that we’re going to have indictments dismissed or any that severe as a result of this."
As for Serrano, if the case does go to trial, LoTempio said the defense is ready to proceed. They plan to bring forward an expert witness who will testify that Lynskey was intoxicated and either walking or running in the lane of traffic when he was struck.
The defense will argue that Lynskey was at fault in the accident, LoTempio said.
They also believe there is evidence to indicate that Serrano didn't know she had struck a person and therefore didn't have the requisite knowledge to be charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.
The accident occurred Aug. 11 on Sumner Road. Lynskey was with friends and family at the Aldean concert at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. They were camping at Darien Lakes State Park. After the concert, the group started on foot back to the campground. The Sheriff's Office report of the accident indicated Lynskey decided to run ahead and catch up with a friend. When both groups were back at the camp, they realized Lynskey was missing. Law enforcement searched the area that night but did not find Lynskey. His body was found the next day in a ditch by the side of the road.
Serrano had been stopped and charged that night with a DWI. The accident may have occurred about a half hour before she was arrested. Through leads, Sheriff's investigators identified her as a suspect in the fatal accident.