Thursday, October 05, 2000

Jury still at work in boating deaths

Defense disputed collision theory

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — A Campbell Circuit Court jury deliberated for about two hours Wednesdaywithout reaching a verdict in the trial of Brian Brunen, a Hyde Park man charged with three counts of manslaughter in a boating accident last year.

        The jury returned to Judge Leonard Kopowski's courtroom at 5 p.m. and informed the judge they were not close to a verdict. He sent jurors home for the night. They will return to their deliberations at 9 a.m. today.

        Mr. Brunen, 32, is accused of causing the deaths of Scott Martini and his wife, Pamela, both of Dearborn County, Ind., and Ken Middendorf of Cleves in a two-boat collision on the Ohio River near the Watertown Marina in Dayton on Aug. 16, 1999.

        He also faces a charge of assault for injuring Mr. Middendorf's wife, Kim, in the wreck, and is accused of driving a motorboat under the influence.

        In closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorney Patrick Hanley emphasized that expert witnesses had testified that there was no way to accurately determine what caused the wreck, or who was at fault.

        He questioned the report filed by Kentucky water patrol Officer Doug Bryant, who investigated the crash, and said the investigation was faulty.

        Prosecutor Bob Montfort countered that Officer Bryant's opinion on how the wreck occurred was based on experience and investigative techniques. He agreed that Mr. Bryant may have been mistaken about the time when a blood sample was taken from Mr. Brunen at University Hospital in Cincinnati, “but that has no bearing on the fact that Brian Brunen was at fault in this crash.”

        Officer Bryant testified earlier that, in his opinion, Mr. Brunen's boat struck the Middendorf boat, which was being driven by Mr. Martini, in the rear, did a 360-degree turn and struck it again in the side.

        A naval engineering expert, however, testifying for the defense, said he believed the two boats struck each other in the bow and the Brunen boat then rode up over the side of the Middendorf boat. He said it was not possible to determine the cause of the crash.

        If convicted, Mr. Brunen could face a maximum of 40 years in prison on all counts.


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