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Derrick Coleman Acquitted of DWI

February 16, 2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Derrick Coleman of the Charlotte Hornets was acquitted of drunken driving charges on Wednesday in an October accident that seriously injured teammate Eldridge Recasner.

The judge said prosecutors did not prove the player was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Judge Eric Levinson did find Coleman guilty on a related charge of unsafe movement.

Coleman, in the second season of a five-year, $40 million contract, was fined $100 and ordered to pay $86 in court costs.

He declined to comment as he left the courthouse.

The charges stemmed from a crash on Oct. 27 in which Coleman made a left turn and was struck on the passenger side by an oncoming tractor-trailer.

The 32-year-old forward and a passenger, Ebony Kimbrough, 25, had facial cuts.

Recasner, a 32-year-old backup guard, was in the front passenger seat. He was left with a fractured right shoulder, collapsed lung and other injuries.

Recasner needed extensive rehabilitation and remains on the injured list. But he has begun practicing and the team hopes he can soon play again.

Defense lawyer George Laughrun noted that two paramedics and one police officer called by the state testified that when they saw Coleman at the scene his eyes were not glassy.

Medical tests at the scene and at a hospital also led to the determination that Coleman was not disoriented.

Laughrun noted that one police officer called by the state testified that he asked for an additional officer to come to the scene to get a second opinion about Coleman.

Coleman told officers he had been drinking champagne earlier in the evening, but he refused to submit to a breath examination or other sobriety tests at the scene. He would not consent to a blood test at the hospital.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Sigmon said authorities should be allowed to draw conclusions from Coleman’s refusal to consent to any of the tests.

``The state would contend the reason he chose not to do these things was because he knew himself he was impaired that evening,″ she said.

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