Municipal Court Judge William Himelman delivered a swift verdict in the long-delayed DWI case of Red Bank Red Hot publisher Claudia Ansorge this afternoon: guilty of driving while intoxicated.


It wasn’t the blood sample analysis, which had experts and lawyers splitting hairs over margins of error and research done in Sweden two decades ago: nor was it the testimony of a cop who ran Ansorge through a series of sobriety tests that he said indicated she was intoxicated when she struck Robert Lisowsky with her car almost two years ago, leading to his death.

Rather, said Himelman, it was the looming question of how a driver in Ansorge’s position could not have seen Lisowsky as he crossed the nearly 60-foot width of East Front Street near Globe Court.

“The thing that bothered me the most was, why wasn’t she able to observe, at least, someone walking across at least 50 feet of roadway?” Himelman asked in his verdict, which immediately followed the end of testimony.

“He walked across the front of his car; she hit him with the right side of her car,” he continued. “Why didn’t she observe him? This bothered me.”

While he gave Ansorge the benefit of the doubt in the complex, competing arguments over blood sample results, Himelman said he did give weight to the the results of Lt. Darren McConnell’s tests, on the scene, of Ansorge’s sobriety.

He cited McConnell’s testimony that Ansorge didn’t satisfactorily complete a heel-to-toe walking test and another, which Himelman called the “military finger-to-the-nose” exercise, in which Ansorge was alleged to have repeatedly touched her nose twice instead of once.

“It may seem insignificant to somebody not in this business, but to me it is significant,” said Himelman, who claimed to have heard “at least 7,000” DWI cases over the course of his many years on the bench.

He said he was finding Ansorge guilty of “the lower level of DWI,” which he didn’t explain, but imposed what he said were the minimum penalties. Ansorge was ordered to pay $250 in fines, plus a number of other surcharges and fees, and to have her license revoked for 90 days. She was also ordered to participate in 12 hours of drunk driver re-education classes.

Ansorge left the courtroom at Borough Hall without comment. Her attorney, Peter O’Mara, said he would appeal.

Municipal Prosecutor James Butler said appeals must be filed with the Superior Court in Freehold within 20 days.

“It’s a really tough situation, because she’s such a nice person,” Butler said. “The case could have gone eiher way — it was really that close,” he added, holding two fingers barely apart.

During his closing argument, Butler had said that, even with the .08-percent blood alcohol reading that the state alleged, “We’re talking a very low reading. We’re not talking about a knock-down, fall-down drunk.”

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