Jurors convicted a Queens man of manslaughter Thursday in the death of a Vietnam veteran he hit in an Elmont crosswalk, but rejected the allegation that the motorist was drunk at the time of the 2013 pedestrian fatality.
Brian Dudley, 44, of Laurelton, is now facing up to five to 15 years in prison after a verdict that also acquitted him of a vehicular manslaughter charge and one of two drunken driving offenses.
The family of victim Walter McDougal, 61, of Elmont, thanked prosecutors and hailed the Nassau County Court verdict as justice for a loved one who left behind a daughter who will celebrate her 16th birthday next week without her dad.
“We’re glad he’s off the road and no one else will have to bear this kind of tragedy going forward,” McDougal’s sister, Nancy Bella, 59, said of Dudley. “We are very pleased that justice was served.”
On Wednesday, attorneys offered contrasting theories of who was to blame for McDougal’s Dec. 28, 2013 death after the 3:30 p.m. collision at Elmont Road and Cerenzia Boulevard.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Bushwack told jurors Dudley was speeding and “dangerously drunk” when his 2006 Toyota Highlander hit McDougal -- a collision a nearby surveillance camera recorded.
He said there was a half-full Heineken bottle in the Toyota, and a blood test about four hours later showed Dudley’s blood-alcohol level at 0.16 percent -- double the legal threshold for intoxication. Bushwack also said the video disproved Dudley’s contention that McDougal darted into traffic.
But Dudley’s lawyer, Christopher Devane, argued McDougal had been crossing against the traffic light. He said that while Dudley had been drinking, his behavior at the scene showed he was sober during the crash.
The Mineola lawyer said Dudley either had “an exceptionally high tolerance” to alcohol, or there was a problem with the blood test result.
McDougal was walking home with groceries at the time of the collision, which left him with multiple skull fractures. His family said he was a widower who had worked at a chemical company after serving in the Army in Vietnam, where he briefly was a prisoner of war.
Jury foreman Ahmet Karamanoglu, 20, said the panel convicted Dudley of the top charge of manslaughter because they found he drove recklessly by speeding.
He also said jurors acquitted him of vehicular manslaughter charge, which had the component of drunken driving, because they believed evidence showed he had a high alcohol tolerance and they “didn’t think he was drunk” during the crash.
“We don’t think that the alcohol had anything to do with the accident,” the foreman said. “He actually passed most of the sobriety field test.”
Karamanoglu said the jury convicted on the other drunken driving count because of the blood test result, and acquitted on a similar count because they didn’t believe Dudley was intoxicated at the scene.
“I’m certainly sorry for Mr. McDougal’s loss of life, but I am glad that the jury was able to see that at the time of the accident, my client had no effects of intoxication,” Devane said.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas released a statement saying that the conviction holds Dudley responsible for his decisions and “the devastating impact he has caused the McDougal family and our community.”