Lawyer: Victim had role in road rage death

Evan Potts leaves Judge Grella's courtroom after being

Evan Potts leaves Judge Grella's courtroom after being arraigned for a road-rage incident. (June 22. 2010) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Attorneys for a Queens College student accused in a road rage death are contending that drugs found in the victim's system may have contributed to his aggressive behavior before he was run over.

Stanley Kopilow, who represents defendant Evan Potts, said Wednesday outside court that toxicologists made a critical finding when they discovered drugs in Ian Sharinn's system after Potts ran over him during a fight in Long Beach in May 2009.

Dr. Joseph Avella, chief toxicologist for the Nassau County medical examiner, testified Wednesday that scientists found Citalopram, an antidepressant, Lamotrigine, a mood stabilizer, and marijuana, which Sharinn, 34, of Long Beach, could have used any time in the three days before his death.

Kopilow also said Sharinn's body was tested by a different laboratory for steroids, although neither he nor prosecutors would comment on the results.

"The real crucial test here is that there were drugs in Ian Sharinn's system," Kopilow said outside court.

Prosecutors have conceded that Sharinn was acting badly before he was killed. But they have said that did not justify Potts' actions. Prosecutors said outside court Wednesday that any drugs Sharinn had in his system are not relevant to the charges against Potts, 24, of Oceanside.

Sharinn's behavior is a major component of Potts' defense. Kopilow maintains that Sharinn, who was 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, was enraged and taunting the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Potts in the moments before Potts ran him over. His lawyers argue that Potts acted out of fear and self-preservation.

Potts could serve a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Thursday. Kopilow has not said whether Potts will testify in his own defense.

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