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Snyder's DUI case takes a new twist

April 15, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A driving-under-the-influence case involving Sen. Herb Snyder took a new twist Wednesday when prosecutors said that the blood sample taken from Snyder can't be found and it was unclear when the investigating officer will return to Jefferson County because of his involvement in the Iraq conflict.

The issues came to light during a hearing in the case Wednesday morning before Jefferson County Magistrate Mary Paul Rissler.

Snyder's attorney, John Skinner, said he wanted part of the blood sample taken from Snyder after he was stopped in his car as he was leaving the Jefferson County Fair on Aug. 21 of last year.

Skinner said he wants the blood sample so he can arrange for an independent analysis of the blood.

Snyder was charged with first-offense driving under the influence and DUI over .10 as he was leaving the fair along Leetown Pike, police said.

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Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ralph Lorenzetti told Rissler that Jefferson County Sheriff's Department deputies can't find the blood sample.

The blood sample was sent to a West Virginia State Police lab in South Charleston for analysis then returned to the sheriff's department, Lorenzetti said.

The box in which the sample was returned was found in the sheriff's department, but the vial of blood was not there, Lorenzetti said.

William Parker, the investigating officer in the case, is working at a security job for a private contractor in Iraq, officials said.

Sheriff's department officials have tried to contact Parker to ask him about the sample, but he has not had time to talk about the case, Lorenzetti said. At one point, Parker said he has been too busy "being shot at," Lorenzetti said.

"My guess is, we're not going to find it, judge, but we're still looking," Lorenzetti said.

It was unclear when Parker would return to the United States, Lorenzetti said.

Simply relying on an affidavit Parker prepared in the case without having Parker present was not likely to work, Lorenzetti said. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against relying solely on an officer's statement in a case because defense attorneys do not have the chance to question the officer about the statement, Lorenzetti said.

Despite the obstacles, Lorenzetti said after the hearing that he will continue to pursue the case against Snyder and "see where we go. It does cause us some problems."

A trial would have to be held before August because any trial involving a misdemeanor charge like the one against Snyder has to be held within one year after the charge is filed, Lorenzetti said Wednesday night.

If the defense asks for a continuance, the trial could be scheduled for later than that, Lorenzetti said.

Jesse Jones, sheriff's department chief deputy, said he does not know what happened to the blood sample. The box and the lab results from the blood analysis are there, said Jones when reached after the hearing.

"You open the box and the vials are gone," Jones said.

Snyder sat quietly beside Skinner during the hearing.

After the hearing, Snyder said he has not consumed any alcohol since he was charged.

Snyder said he went to a psychiatrist and a drug and alcohol treatment center in Shippensburg, Pa., for his drinking problem and continues to attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"I'm stronger, better and much wiser for it," Snyder said.

Snyder, who is running for re-election, will face Democrat Greg Lance in the May 11 primary election.

Snyder was pulled over at about 9:40 p.m. on Aug. 21 as he was leaving the Jefferson County Fair, Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober has said.

Snyder was stopped in his black Lincoln Continental by Parker after a fair official and others told Parker that Snyder appeared to be drunk.

Snyder's face was red, his eyes were bloodshot and his breath smelled of alcohol, Parker wrote in court records.

A bag containing four empty Coors Light cans, two empty beer bottles and an empty bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade were in Snyder's car, police alleged.

Police alleged Snyder failed four sobriety tests and registered a .267 blood-alcohol level on a breath test. The legal level for West Virginia at the time was .10. It since has been reduced to .08.

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