The man charged with driving while intoxicated in a Nov. 27 crash that claimed the life of West Seneca Democratic Chairman Daniel S. McParlane registered a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit, according to documents The Buffalo News obtained from Town Court on Thursday.
But Robert J. Styn Jr. told police he could not avoid colliding with McParlane’s oncoming car, which was out of control and “doing 360s” as the two vehicles approached each other on Indian Church Road, according to the court papers.
Additionally, the district attorney has informed the town justice that his office intends to present the case to a grand jury, the records show.
This and other information stems from Town Court documents The News obtained after appealing to the state Office of Court Administration when West Seneca Justice Court officials refused to release any information about the case for several days. That office interceded, and the documents were released Thursday.
The information continues to be withheld by the West Seneca Police Department, which has insisted that its “procedure” does not allow its release without a Freedom of Information request. The police also did not report that Styn, 62, of Collins Avenue, West Seneca, was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Styn told police he was driving toward Buffalo just after midnight when he saw the oncoming McParlane vehicle lose control.
“The car was doing 360s, spinning in front of me,” Styn told police in documents filed with the court. “I slammed on my brakes, he was right there, and ‘bang’ we just hit.
“I tried to go to the right, but he was just there,” Styn added. “Nothing I could do.”
The News sought the information because several questions remain unanswered in connection with the death of a high-profile political leader and off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
And with new information obtained Thursday, additional questions were posed to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, who emphasized he will not divulge specifics about a case still under investigation.
But as a general matter, Sedita said, his office acts as it has in the Styn case to move the case to a superior court, even though it involves only a misdemeanor DWI charge – for the moment.
“That motion is typically filed by a prosecutor when additional investigation could – and I emphasize ‘could’ – result in more serious charges,” he said, explaining that the motion prevents any quick guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge in a lower court such as West Seneca’s.
“Essentially, we preserve our right to prosecute a felony, if there is evidence,” Sedita said. “It gives us breathing space to conduct an investigation without a defendant pleading to a misdemeanor.”
Such an investigation could take weeks or months, he added.
In general terms, the district attorney said charges of vehicular manslaughter could still be filed in a misdemeanor DWI case if it is proved the defendant’s actions caused death. In coming weeks, he said, investigators will determine driving conditions, physical conditions of the road, mechanical considerations, the speed of the vehicles involved through “good old-fashioned police work,” including interviews with witnesses.
“As a general matter, in most DWI cases where a death or injury is involved, police will typically look to see if additional evidence will justify more charges,” the district attorney said.
Sedita also said toxicology tests are performed on victims of such accidents to determine whether drugs or alcohol might have been involved. Health privacy laws prevent disclosure of such information to the public, he said, but it is possible that such findings could be revealed during the course of a trial.
In their only public statement on the case issued through a news release late on Nov. 27, West Seneca police said inclement weather conditions might have contributed to the accident.
The newly obtained records also indicate that Styn demonstrated impaired motor coordination and smelled of alcohol when he was charged at 12:12 a.m., while his blood alcohol content registered 0.21 percent – nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08. As a result, Styn was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated because of the high blood alcohol content.
The documents also indicate that Styn told police he had “a few beers” at the home of a friend.
Police have continued to refuse to release any other information in conjunction with the accident that killed McParlane, 33. McParlane, off-duty at the time, was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Erie County Holding Center.
Officials of the West Seneca Court Clerk’s Office had also refused to release any information for several days as a result of orders issued by Town Justice Jeffrey M. Harrington.
But after threatening legal action, The News on Thursday obtained the court documents – considered public information under the law – through the intervention of the state Office of Court Administration.
The News has also filed a Freedom of Information request with the Police Department seeking all documents relating to the accident and its investigation.
Styn is scheduled to be arraigned at 4 p.m. Dec. 17 in West Seneca Town Court.