Motorcyclist guilty in death of Trooper Craig Todeschini

An Onondaga County jury has found a 21-year-old motorcyclist guilty of leading New York State Trooper Craig Todeschini on a chase that resulted in Trooper Todeschini’s death. James Carncross was convicted of reckless driving and aggravated criminally negligent homicide. Evidence showed that Carncross was speeding on his motorcycle and was purposely evading pursuit by Trooper Todeschini on April 23. Trooper Todeschini was killed when his patrol SUV crashed into a tree.

The State Troopers PBA thanks the jury for its service and understanding of the case. We continue to mourn the loss of Trooper Todeschini, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family, friends and fellow Troopers.

Below is an article from The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse about the jury’s verdict.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

By Jim O’Hara

Staff writer

James Carncross shut his eyes briefly but showed no emotion Wednesday night as an Onondaga County jury found him guilty of causing the death of state Trooper Craig Todeschini.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about 9.5 hours before finding Carncross guilty of reckless driving and aggravated criminally negligent homicide in Todeschini’s death April 23. The jury acquitted him of a charge of aggravated second-degree manslaughter.

Carncross, 21, of Apulia Road, Jamesville, faces at least five years and as many as 20 years in state prison when sentenced by Judge William Walsh Jan. 10. Based on the requests to review evidence and to have legal instructions explained and re-explained, the jurors appeared to conclude that Carncross was the speeding motorcyclist Todeschini was chasing when he died. They appeared to reject the defense contention that To´ deschini’s own reckless conduct caused his death. “The defendant was the one who started this course of conduct. He’s the one who led Trooper Todeschini into that death trap,” District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick said.

Todeschini, 25, died when the sport utility vehicle he was driving slammed into a tree at Route 91 and Cherry Road in Pompey Hill. Authorities estimated the officer had been driving faster than 90 mph as he chased Carncross’ speeding motorcycle south on Route 91.

“He didn’t deserve to be besmirched,” Fitzpatrick said of the defense attempt to blame Todeschini’s conduct for his death. The prosecutor said the jury verdict was a reaffirmation that Todeschini was “an outstanding young man.”

His widow, his parents and his sister sat quietly in the front row of the spectator section as the verdict was announced about 7:20 p.m. They showed no visible reaction to the verdict and then rushed from the courtroom with other state police officials.

Todeschini’s father, James Todeschini, said he believed the verdict was a statement that conduct like Carncross’ would not be tolerated. And he said he was pleased state lawmakers had passed a law named after his son that makes it a felony to flee from a law enforcement officer.

“This is not going to happen again. No family is going to have to go through this again,” he said. But he also voiced sympathy for the defendant’s family. “Our thoughts go out to the Carncross family as well,” the elder Todeschini said. Members of Carncross’ family slipped from court without comment. The jurors also quickly left the building without comment.

Defense lawyer Salvatore Piemonte said, “There are no winners here. There are no winners in this case.”

“The Todeschini family has lost a great asset to their family, someone who was by all accounts a great man,” he said. “And my clients are suffering the loss of their son to a prison sentence that is likely to be lengthy.”

Piemonte contended Carncross was “basically a decent kid” who just made “a grave mistake” for which he would answer for the rest of his life.

“It’s devastating all the way around,” Piemonte said.

The defense lawyer said he had instructed Carncross not to show any emotion at the verdict, adding he was proud of his client for complying so well.

Jurors began deliberating about 9:45 a.m. and made several requests that testimony and the law be read to them again.

Fitzpatrick said it appeared the jurors’ initial requests — to again see some evidence related to the defendant’s motorcycle and the statement he gave implicating himself in the fatal chase — led them to conclude Carncross was the speeding motorcyclist Todeschini was chasing.

He said the jurors’ subsequent requests that the legal issues relating to Todeschini’s official duties be explained again apparently were helpful in allowing jurors to reject the defense’s contention that Todeschini was responsible for his own death.

The defense had argued Todeschini’s own reckless conduct was outside the officer’s official duties and, therefore, a reason for absolving Carncross of criminal responsibility. The final request that the law regarding the aggravated manslaughter charge as well as the law regarding the aggravated criminally negligent homicide count be explained again showed the jurors were trying to decide whether Carncross acted recklessly or with criminal negligence, Fitzpatrick said.

A finding of recklessness would have been that Carncross consciously disregarded the grave risk of death his conduct posed to Todeschini. That was the basis of the aggravated second-degree manslaughter charge for which the jury acquitted him.

The aggravated criminally negligent homicide conviction was a finding Carncross failed to perceive the risk of death posed by his conduct in leading the trooper on a high-speed chase.

Despite the hard line taken by Fitzpatrick in prosecuting the case, he said he won’t likely seek a maximum penalty for Carncross. He will review a probation department pre-sentence report and talk further with the Todeschini family before making a sentencing recommendation.

Piemonte said he would consult with the Carncross family about the prospects for appealing the conviction once the defendant is sentenced.