The man whose drunken driving caused a crash that killed a Buffalo bride on her wedding day in 1987 could be headed back to jail, again for drinking and driving.
John Radlbeck, 36, of Kenmore was found guilty Wednesday of driving while ability impaired by alcohol but acquitted of the more serious charge of felony driving while intoxicated.
Radlbeck, who spent two years in state prison for a DWI conviction that came eight years after the fatal crash, faces no more than 30 days in jail for this latest conviction for his arrest last year in the City of Tonawanda.
Radlbeck showed no reaction to the verdict, which came after a jury of 12 deliberated about 25 minutes. State Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills allowed him to remain free on $1,500 bail until his Nov. 19 sentencing. Radlbeck declined to comment as he left court.
The fact that a City of Tonawanda videotape of Radlbeck's booking at police headquarters the morning of the incident had been erased was a critical element in the acquittal, according to his attorney, Glenn E. Murray.
He called police conduct in handling the arrest "outrageous." The videotape would have allowed the jury to view Radlbeck's demeanor after his arrest rather than relying on the testimony of Police Officer Matthew Burke, Murray said.
"I think the attorney does not know all the facts," City of Tonawanda Police Chief Mark Winters replied today. "For him to label our conduct 'outrageous' is a cruel injustice to the men and women of this department."
The department's videotaping of the booking area is done to protect officers and the public, to ensure that proper police procedures are followed, Winters explained. The tape is in extremely slow motion, and the quality is not good enough to determine whether someone is intoxicated or to be used as courtroom evidence.
The tapes routinely are saved for 30 days, then erased unless there's a request or need to save a tape. No such timely request was made to preserve this tape, the chief added.
Radlbeck did not testify or present any defense witnesses linked to his arrest by Burke on Main near Morgan streets in Tonawanda about 2 a.m. Sept. 7, 1998.
Wednesday, Burke -- the only person to testify in the trial -- told the jury he pulled Radlbeck over after he saw him driving with his car's headlights off on Main Street about 100 feet in front of his patrol car.
Burke said Radlbeck smelled of alcohol, had glassy eyes and slurred his speech. Radlbeck admitted having at least four mixed drinks at a North Tonawanda bar, but said he could not recall the bar's name, Burke testified.
Burke told the jury Radlbeck failed four fairly simple roadside sobriety tests and couldn't even count numbers backwards correctly. He said he refused to take a Breathalyzer test.
Burke said police routinely destroy booking videotapes within 30 days of the arrest, and they did just that in Radlbeck's case.
In closing arguments, Murray argued there was a lack of evidence of his client's guilt, calling the destroyed videotape the best evidence in the case.
Prosecutor Frederick J. Platek urged the jury to use its combined "common sense" in analyzing the veteran police officer's finding that Radlbeck had too much to drink and had refused to take a Breathalyzer test. If convicted of felony drunken driving, he had faced a state prison term of one and one-third to four years.