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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judge wants fatal crash case reheard to Dept. of Safety

NASHUA – A judge has ordered the state Department of Safety to reopen its hearing on a fatal crash in Nashua, ruling that the decision to revoke Michael Gorsuch’s driver’s license “is unjust at present.”

Gorsuch, 31, of Temple, has been trying for two years to clear his name after having been charged with negligent homicide for the death of his friend Daniel Rodriguez, 27, of Nashua, in a car crash.

Prosecutors dropped the charge shortly before trial, after two crash reconstruction experts concluded that Nashua Police had erred in their analysis of the crash, and that Rodriguez has been driving his car when it crashed.

State police then brought an administrative case against Gorsuch with the Department of Safety, and a hearings examiner found Gorsuch responsible for the crash, and revoked his license.

Gorsuch appealed the decision to Hillsborough County Superior Court, where Judge James Barry ruled Oct. 9 that while state law prevents him from hearing any new evidence in such cases, the Department of Safety should do so.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled Nov. 3, to discuss the scope of the new hearing, Department of Safety attorney Christopher Casko said Monday.

The hearing itself will be scheduled at that time, once both sides sort out how long it might take, and what it may involve, Casko said.

Gorsuch’s lawyer, Steven Levesque of Nashua, had argued that state law entitled Barry to hear whatever evidence he chose, but Barry agreed with Casko that the court could only decide whether a decision was “unjust or unreasonable” based on the evidence already presented. Casko had suggested Barry could send the case back for further hearing, however, and Barry has done so.

Gorsuch and his lawyer had asked Barry to hear testimony from two other crash reconstruction experts, who didn’t testify during the prior hearing. Levesque argued, and Barry seemed to agree, that Gorsuch was entitled to question Gordon “Chip” Johnson, the crash expert whom prosecutors consulted before dropping the charge.

Johnson produced no report on the crash, but told prosecutors he agreed with another expert, hired by Gorsuch, that Rodriguez had been driving. Several other crash experts who reviewed reports on the case also have agreed that Nashua police erred in blaming Gorsuch for the crash, and Levesque hopes to call one of them, Bruce McNally of Rochester, as a witness.

Barry ordered that the Department of Safety reopen the hearing “in order for the petitioner to present further expert testimony.”

Several other crash experts who reviewed reports on the case at The Telegraph’s request also agreed that Gorsuch could not have been driving, and Levesque hopes to call one of them, Bruce McNally of Rochester, as a witness.

All of the experts agree that Rodriguez’s car was speeding at 50 to 70 mph when it began to spin out of control on Thornton Road on Oct. 29, 2007, and the passenger side of the car crashed into three trees. The first two trees snapped, and the last brought the car to a stop.

Both Rodriguez and Gorsuch had been drinking at the nearby Sky Lounge while watching the Red Sox clinch the World Series, and neither man was wearing a seat belt. Rodriguez was killed in the crash, and his body found wedged behind the driver’s seat.

Gorsuch repeatedly denied having been the driver, but police charged him about three hours after the wreck.

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or awolfe@nashuatelegraph.com.