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Manslaughter ruled out in 13-hour deliberation

A jury Wednesday evening acquitted Dr. James G. Corasanti on all felony charges related to the hit-and-run death of an 18-year-old longboard skater last July in Amherst.

He was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

Jurors acquitted the 56-year-old Getzville physician of second-degree manslaughter, the most serious charge he faced in the death of Alexandria "Alix" Rice, and second-degree vehicular manslaughter.

The jury also acquitted him of two evidence-tampering charges: deleting text messages from his mobile telephone and removing the victim's blood and body tissue from his car.

He also was acquitted of leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting in death.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 13 hours.

Corasanti, who appeared overcome with emotion, hugged defense lawyer Thomas H. Burton, his friend of 30 years, after the jury delivered the verdict in Erie County Court.

Corasanti shook hands with defense lawyer Joel L. Daniels.

A man sitting next to Tammy A. Schueler, Rice's mother, shouted an expletive at jurors as they walked out of the courtroom.

Corasanti, who already had posted bail when charged with the felonies, continues to be free on that bail.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said he was "absolutely astonished" when he heard the jury acquitted Corasanti on the leaving-the-scene count.

"My sense of things was the case was sold by Dr. Corasanti's testimony," Sedita said. "I could be wrong about that. That's my best judgment."

"The jurors found reasonable doubt," Sedita said.

"They believed the claims and explanations of Dr. Corasanti," Sedita said. "Personally, I didn't believe them. I wasn't on the jury."

Corasanti did not remain in the courthouse with his lawyers after the verdict.

Upon leaving the basement courtroom, when asked by reporters if he had anything to say, the doctor said nothing and headed up the stairs away from gathered media and his defense team.

"Something everybody should remember here is there were no winners tonight," Burton said. "There is a family there who lost a loved one.

"We believe the jury saw it for what it was -- a tragic, horrible accident."

Burton, on behalf of Corasanti and the defense team, then "extended condolences" to Rice's family.

"No one is leaving here with any great joy," he added. "It is a time to heal and we are very appreciative the jury here did its job and did it courageously."

Corasanti will be sentenced for the misdemeanor DWI conviction Aug. 16.

The verdict came on the second day of deliberations, after a monthlong trial that gripped the community and prompted questions and outrage among people who asked how a doctor could leave an injured teenager to die.

Rice was on her way home from her job at a Hopkins Road pizzeria when she was killed at about 11:20 p.m. July 8 on Heim Road. Corasanti was on his way home from a country club outing. Corasanti testified he did not see the teen before or after the impact.

His lawyers maintained that Corasanti could not have saved Rice even if he had stopped at the scene. She died almost instantly from a broken neck.

Corasanti's lawyers have said that he was not impaired at the time of the fatal incident and that he did not realize he had struck a person until after he arrived home. Once he realized what he had done, he panicked, his lawyers said.

Prosecutors have said Corasanti was drunk, speeding and texting on his way home from the country club outing when he struck the young woman and drove away.

Corasanti could have faced up to 23 years in prison if he had been convicted of all of the felony charges.

To convict the doctor of vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors would have had to prove that drunken driving directly caused the death of the victim.

To convict him of second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors would have had to shown that criminal recklessness caused her death.