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Two women queried about doctor's texts; Messages to Corasanti at key time were deleted

The two women to whom Dr. James G. Corasanti sent text messages minutes before he fatally struck an 18-year-old skateboarder with his BMW remember the messages far differently.

One can recall every detail of the messages she and the doctor exchanged.

The other, though, said Thursday in Erie County Court that she deleted his messages the next morning without even reading them.

Christine Micciarello and Bonnie Warsaw were the 32nd and 33rd witnesses, respectively, to testify so far in the 56-year-old doctor's manslaughter and hit-and-run trial. Prosecutors have said Corasanti's repeated texting was among the fateful choices he made as he drove home from a country club outing late at night on July 8 and struck Alexandria "Alix" Rice on Heim Road in Amherst.

The text messages were deleted from Corasanti's Apple iPhone 4 -- and efforts to retrieve them failed even after sending his phone to a computer forensic lab in Texas, Amherst Police Officer Thomas M. Barillari testified.

Warsaw and Micciarello also deleted Corasanti's text messages from their phones before police seized them.

"I got rid of all of them," said Warsaw, a medical assistant who worked for Corasanti at the Buffalo Medical Group.

Corasanti's text to Warsaw at 11:19 p.m. was the last one he sent before striking Rice on her longboard within the next two minutes, according to phone records.

After hearing about the fatal incident the following morning, Warsaw realized that her exchange of texts with Corasanti occurred "close to the accident," she said.

Did she feel concerned by that, prosecutor Kelley A. Omel asked.

"I felt sad," Warsaw replied.

Warsaw testified that she read the text messages "hundreds of times" in the days following the fatal incident.

Then she deleted the dozen or so texts they exchanged in the half-hour or so before the incident, without prompting from anybody, she said.

"I got rid of all of the messages," Warsaw said. "I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't read them anymore."

The text messages dealt with the scheduling of an office party, she said. Under questioning from Omel, she remembered the sequence and timing of every message.

Her testimony humanized a defendant who has been scorned among people in the community who have asked how a doctor could leave the scene without stopping to help the victim.

Warsaw said Corasanti called her the day after the fatal incident.

"It was a lot of crying," she said of that phone call.

"I never saw her. I never saw her," Corasanti repeated, according to Warsaw.

Corasanti's lawyers have said the doctor did not know he struck someone until after he arrived home.

"He felt his car had contact with something," defense lawyer Joel L. Daniels previously said. "It may have rolled over something. And he heard a thud. But he had no idea that he had hit that girl. That's why he didn't hit his brakes. That's why he kept going. That's why he kept driving straight ahead."

A few days later, Warsaw went to Corasanti's Getzville home to check on him and deliver cards and letters of encouragement from patients.

"I felt like I was OK to drive that night," Warsaw recalled Corasanti telling her.

While Warsaw's testimony might help Corasanti appear sympathetic to jurors, Micciarello's testimony raised questions.

Corasanti sent Micciarello a text message a few minutes before the fatal incident and another one a few minutes after it.

Micciarello, a physician assistant at Buffalo Medical Group, said she had turned off her BlackBerry phone and went to bed before Corasanti sent the text messages to her. So she first noticed them the next morning.

Micciarello, of Clarence, said she deleted three of Corasanti's text messages without reading them, because she wanted "to get up to" other text messages on her phone that she knew were about consultations she had that day at work.

"You're telling us you deleted them without reading them?" prosecutor James F. Bargnesi asked.

"I did," she replied.

Bargnesi asked her why she would delete Corasanti's messages, since "those could be work, too."

In fact, Daniels has already defended Corasanti's texting to Warsaw and Micciarello as part of the doctor's work duties.

Corasanti's text message at 11:19 p.m. "was sent to his longtime secretary, Bonnie Warsaw," Daniels said in his opening statement.

"The other female that he sent a text to is his longtime physician's assistant, who was scheduled to work the weekend at three different hospitals," Daniels told jurors in his opening statement.

But on Thursday, that physician assistant told jurors she deleted Corasanti's texts without even reading them because "I just wanted to get to my work" ones.

When Omel questioned Warsaw, she asked point-blank about the nature of her relationship with Corasanti.

"He is my boss. He is my friend," Warsaw replied.

Bargnesi did not ask Micciarello the same question.

He asked her, however, to describe how she listed Corasanti in her phone's contacts.

"Naples," she replied.

Her contacts include other people with James as their first name, she explained.

So she used Naples as a way to identify Corasanti.

Don't the other Jameses have different last names, Bargnesi asked.

Yes, she replied.

Why Naples? he asked.

"He has a place in Naples," she said.

And how do you know about his place in Naples?

"We've talked about it," she said.

Often, the questions Bargnesi asked resulted in objections from Daniels.

Daniels objected 15 times during Bargnesi's questioning of Micciarello, three of which were sustained by Judge Sheila A. DiTullio.

Daniels twice asked DiTullio for two sidebar conferences, both of which were granted, involving the three defense lawyers and three prosecutors while Micciarello was on the witness stand.

Daniels objected only three times when Omel questioned Warsaw.

At least eight times, Micciarello said she did not recall or did not remember in response to Bargnesi's questions about the timing or topics of the deleted Corasanti text messages or other deleted messages on her phone.

Bargnesi asked her whether she recalled what her text message said to Corasanti days after the fatal incident.

"I know I sent a message, I just don't know what it was," she said. "I know at some point I said 'thinking about you and your family.' "