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Recorded phone call appears damaging to Michael Grasing's drunken driving murder case

Michael Grasing, now 34, is shown on his

Michael Grasing, now 34, is shown on his way to his arraignment in Central Islip on July 18, 2012. Credit: James Carbone

In a recorded telephone call from the Suffolk County jail played Monday for jurors, the West Babylon man on trial for murder in a drunken driving crash appeared to confirm some of the most damaging evidence against him.

For much of the monthlong trial, the defense for Michael Grasing, 34, has sought to discredit the words of John Patsalos, who told police officers that he saw Grasing driving recklessly and even warned him to get off the road before he killed someone. Patsalos died weeks after the June 24, 2012, crash that killed Brittney Walsh, 18.

The defense has focused attention on Patsalos' criminal record and the fact that no other witness saw what he claimed to have seen -- Grasing weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights before crashing into the back of Walsh's sport utility vehicle, sending it tumbling sideways down Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst. Prosecutors say Grasing drove at up to 100 mph with depraved indifference to human life and with a blood alcohol content of .32 percent, four times the legal limit.

On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe played an excerpt of a conversation recorded five days after the crash between Grasing and his father, also named Michael, for jurors and state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen.

"What we have to worry about is rate of speed and stuff like that -- and witnesses," the father said on recording. "Do you remember a guy telling you to get off the road?"

"Yeah," Grasing replied, tentatively.

"You do? OK," his father said. "Well, he's a witness."

"I'm not sure, you know," Grasing said.

"Well, if you were as drunk as they say you were, I don't know how you remember anything," his father said.

As with all calls from the jail, both parties are informed beforehand that they were being recorded.

Earlier, Suffolk police Officer Anthony Minnella testified that after Grasing regained consciousness the morning of the crash in Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Islip, he peppered him with questions.

"He asked me what happened," Minnella said. "He asked me if anybody was hurt, and if anybody was killed."

Minnella said he told Grasing he didn't know.

A high school classmate of Walsh's testified she saw the crash after paying for gas at a nearby gas station. She said she saw what she later realized was Walsh's SUV pass by at an "average" rate of speed and then saw a much faster darker sedan hit the SUV in the right rear, causing it to flip several times.

Krystena Carlson said she ran to help, but knew right away she couldn't.

"It was too late," she said.

Even then, she didn't realize the victim was Walsh. She figured that out later that night, when she noticed a red soccer ball Walsh liked to keep with her lying in the road and then saw Walsh's distraught mother.

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