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Driver in fatal crash pleads not guilty

A North Tonawanda teenager pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Niagara County Court to charges that she was driving while drunk when her car crashed and her boyfriend was killed.

Ashley M. Sullivan, 17, of Linden Avenue, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, failure to keep right and speeding.

She was driving a car that slammed against a brick pillar in front of Deerwood Golf Course on Sweeney Street in North Tonawanda just after 2 a.m. May 31. Front-seat passenger Alex Rozicki, 20, of Niagara Falls, was killed.

If convicted of the most serious charge, second-degree manslaughter, Sullivan faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison.

Almost 20 of the victim's family and friends were in the courtroom of Judge Matthew J. Murphy III for the brief arraignment. Sullivan stood quietly as defense attorney Glenn Murray entered the not guilty plea on her behalf.

There was no objection from Deputy District Attorney Theodore M. Brenner to allowing Sullivan to remain free without bail, and Murphy ordered that status to continue. Sullivan is to return to court for a pretrial conference Oct. 27; her tentative trial date is Feb. 8.

Police reported at the time that Sullivan consented to a blood test at DeGraff Memorial Hospital after the crash that showed a 0.13 percent blood-alcohol content. Murray told the judge that he may challenge whether the consent was legal, along with the admissibility of some comments Sullivan made to police.

Murray said after court that he wouldn't answer questions on the case until it was completed.

But Rozicki's mother and grandmother weren't so reticent.

Sandra Salm of Niagara Falls, the grandmother, said that she wants Sullivan's punishment to be "the most she can get. She killed my grandson."

Rozicki's mother, Renee Rozicki, didn't necessarily think the maximum sentence should be imposed. But she said, "I think there should be some punishment. I think these kids should learn their lesson about drinking and driving. . . . I think [Sullivan] should have some time to think about it."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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