The DWI trial of publisher Claudia Ansorge got underway in Red Bank municipal court this morning with testimony from a police officer who gave her a series of sobriety tests after an April, 2006 fatal accident involving a pedestrian.
Lt. Darren McConnell, who heads the traffic safety department, testified that he ran Ansorge through a series of “psycho-physical” coordination tests on a sidewalk on East Front Street, not far from the accident scene where Riverview Medical Center plumber Robert Lisowsky lay in the road being treated. Lisowsky later died of his injuries.
McConnell said that while Ansorge repeatedl asked about Lisowsky’s condition, she was calm, cooperative and did no slur her speech. But because he detected alcohol on her breath and thought she was swaying as she stood, he took her aside and ran the test series. They involved reciting the alphabet, touching the tip of nose, a balance test and other measures.
Ansorge, he said, did not perform a heel-to-toe test satisfactorily, taking 13 steps instead of the total 11 he’d instructed her to take, and failing to touch her leading heel within one inch of her trailing foot four times.
He also testified that she did not satisfactorily complete a one-footed balance test.
Based on his observations, McConnell testified, “I felt she was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.”
Because Lisowsky was in a life-threatening state, McConnell ordered a blood test on Ansorge, who cooperated and gave samples at Riverview under police oversight.
The prosecution maintains the test showed she was at the .08 percent blood-alcohol level that is the legal threshhold for intoxication. The defense is expected to introduce evidence of a .072-percent reading in an independent analysis of a second blood sample taken at the time.
McConnell also said that an investigation, based on credit card receipts and other evidence, indicated that Ansorge had had between one and two martinis at dinner in Asbury Park with a friend starting three hours before the 9:30p accident. There was no evidence of speeding or erratic driving.
McConnell said his investigation determined that Lisowsky had at some point been at the Globe tavern before crossing East Front Street near Globe Court before being struck, but that whether he’d just come from there couldn’t be established. No testimony was given as to Lisowsky’s blood-alcohol level. Under questioning from Ansorge’s attorney, Peter O’Mara, McConnell said that Lisowsky was jaywalking when he was struck by Ansorge’s westbound car.
The trial is scheduled to resume this afternoon, but may not conclude today. Judge William Himelman told the lawyers involved that he’s going on vacation Feb. 14 and wants the matter resolved by then.
According to prosecutor James Butler, Ansorge faces a nine-month license suspension and fines. A Monmouth County Grand Jury “did not find sufficient evidence to sustain the return of an indictment” on criminal charges, Himelman said at the outset of the hearing, reading from court records.