Hamilton pleads guilty to manslaughter in Westerlo motorcycle crash

— Photo from Albany County District Attorney's Office
Alexander Hamilton

ALBANY COUNTY — Alexander Hamilton said he couldn’t remember the motorcycle crash that killed 23-year-old Leanna Prudhomme, of Berne, or the two bars he drank at before getting on the bike that resulted in the fatal crash.

But he accepted a plea deal Wednesday morning in Albany County Court, to serve one to three years in state prison, and pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, a felony, saying he acknowledges his responsibility for the crash, even if he cannot recall it.

Trauma can impair the ability of the hippocampus to encode and store information.

Prudhomme’s mother, Kimberly Zelvian of Berne, told reporters after the hearing that she and her family had agreed to the plea deal to avoid going through more trauma in court.

“I don’t think his sentence was near enough,” she added.

Hamilton, who lives in Hannacroix, in Greene County, crashed his motorcycle on Route 403 in Westerlo shortly after leaving the bar McNerney’s Brass Rail in Greenville just before midnight on Sept. 2, police said. Prudhomme, who was a passenger on the motorcycle, was killed in the crash. Police said many beer cans were found at the crash site.

Hamilton went before Judge William A. Carter on Wednesday morning and waived his right to a trial by grand jury and accepted a plea deal. His plea bargain includes one to three years in state prison followed by three years of using an interlock device and possibly losing his license. He will be sentenced on Feb. 4 next year.

Mary Tanner Richter, the Vehicular Crimes Bureau chief at the Albany County District Attorney’s office who prosecuted the case, said an investigation found Hamilton had been at a bar called Brennan’s in Earlton around 3:30 p.m. on the day of the crash and later went to the Brass Rail where he had beer and a mixed drink.

A toxicology report from two hours after the accident showed that Hamilton had a blood-alcohol content of .08, she said. Driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is illegal in New York State.

Police had said at the time of the crash that Hamilton failed to negotiate a curve in the road, and ended up driving on slippery dewy grass on the side of the road before crashing into a utility pole. Police found Hamilton lying next to the motorcycle with serious internal injuries. They found Prudhomme’s body lying in the road.

When being questioned by the judge, Hamilton said he acknowledged that he had been drinking and crashed his motorcycle, but said he could not remember the events.

“I don’t personally remember, your honor, but I can testify that I had,” he said, in response to being asked about crashing his motorcycle.

The judge asked Hamilton if he had drunk alcohol before going to drink more at the Brass Rail. Hamilton initially denied this. Eric Sills, Hamilton’s attorney, said that he had suffered memory damage from the incident. Sills later added that Hamilton did agreed he did drink and crash his motorcycle and accepts the responsibility.

“I am not denying this, your honor,” said Hamilton. “It’s just that I don’t recall.”

Carter asked him what was the last thing he remembered on Sept. 2. Hamilton said it was riding his dirt bike that morning.

Prudhomme’s father, Frank Prudhomme of Latham, said to reporters after the hearing that he doesn’t believe that Hamilton can’t recall what happened.

Zelvian said that her daughter had just turned 23 on Aug. 7, and was the “sweetest girl,” with a “great smile and great laugh” who loved animals. Frank Prudhomme said she had been an apprentice at the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 83 in Clifton Park.

Zelvian said Hamilton and her daughter knew each from Greenville High School. Both of Prudhomme’s parents said that Hamilton had not reached out to them since their daughter’s death.

“He wouldn’t even look at me, nor would his parents,” said Zelvian.

“He took her from us … ,” Zelvian said in tears. “I’ll never get her back.”

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