Niagara County District Attorney Michael J. Violante does not expect to file felony charges against a Ransomville man accused in a DWI case tied to a crash that severely injured a Niagara County sheriff's deputy last month.
"After researching the law extensively and reviewing the facts, it's our opinion that we cannot charge him with anything more serious than what he has already been charged with," Violante told The Buffalo News on Wednesday.
Todd M. Hauser, 35, appeared Tuesday night in Porter Town Court on misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.
Hauser struck a parked car on Youngstown-Lockport Road early July 18, drove off and ran into the woods when he was pulled over a short distance away, sheriff's officials said.
Allen Gerhardt, 36, was among deputies who responded to a call for assistance. He crashed into a guardrail on his way to the scene and suffered serious injuries that resulted in the loss of both legs. He continues to recover in Erie County Medical Center.
Hauser's attorney, George V.C. Muscato, said case law doesn't support more charges against his client.
"Very simply, there is no causal relationship between the actions of my client, Todd Hauser, and the so very unfortunate accident involving the deputy," Muscato said.
"This is one of those cases where we wish we could charge him with something more serious based on the resultant injuries to the deputy, but we can't," Violante said.
Sheriff James R. Voutour said Wednesday that Violante and Assistant District Attorney Brian Seaman spent a lot of time on the case.
"I know [Violante] has been working really, really hard to look for a charge, but unfortunately all the case law is against us," he said. "It just wasn't a continuous-type situation where we could link the two together, and you just don't want to lay bad charges."
Voutour was unhappy that a local court granted Hauser a "hardship license," which will allow him to drive to and from work.
"How about Allen Gerhardt's hardship? He's laying in a hospital bed, and this guy gets to drive again. That was disappointing," the sheriff said.
Porter Town Justice David J. Truesdale granted Hauser the conditional license, which will allow him to drive to and from work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
That is "standard practice in a rural area," a court official said.
Muscato said the only charges ever filed against Hauser have been misdemeanors. Hauser was convicted of misdemeanor DWI in 1994. The latest DWI would have automatically become a felony if that conviction had come in the last 10 years, Violante said.
Hauser may not face a felony charge, but Gerhardt and his wife, Tina, have hired an attorney for a possible lawsuit against him.
"There's absolutely no question we're going to be fully investigating the [alleged] drunk driver," Gerhardt's attorney, Christopher O'Brien, told The News last week.