Day 2 of trial in fatal hit-and-run

EAGLE RIVER – The trial of a Calumet man accused of drunk driving in a fatal 2011 accident continued Thursday with testimony from doctors who examined the victim, as well as people who saw the defendant in the hours leading up to the crash.

David Simons, 39, appeared in Keweenaw County Circuit Court for the second day of the three-day trial. He was allegedly behind the wheel while intoxicated early on the morning of Nov. 5, 2011, when he failed to negotiate a corner on Five Mile Point Road. His passenger, Jeffrey Brusso, 53, of Allouez Township, was killed in the crash.

George Krainatz had been at Brusso’s house on the night leading up to the accident, where he had also encountered Simons, who he’d known for several years. He said Simons, who was carrying a bottle of brandy, had appeared intoxicated at the time.

“He was hitting on my girlfriend, for one – I didn’t really appreciate that,” he said. “He was bragging about how much money he had. He was really obnoxious. That’s why I ended up leaving. I had to work in the morning and I didn’t want to deal with that.”

He was unsure how much of the brandy Simons had consumed.

The defense argues the crash occurred not because Simons was intoxicated, but because Brusso instigated an altercation with Simons in the car over debts owed to Simons. Krainatz said he was unaware of any debt Brusso had with Simons.

Several people testified who had been at the Cliff View Bar in Phoenix, where Simons and Brusso had gone later that night. Bartender Emily Pizzi recalled hearing a screeching sound, then running onto the porch to see Simons’ car in a shallow ditch. The car pulled out of the ditch into the parking lot, almost hitting her car, she said.

Brusso ordered two beers, one of which went to Simons. Pizzi said Simons appeared intoxicated; when he went outside, she dumped his beer out with three-fourths of the glass remaining.

“Simons wanted a shot, and I said, ‘No,'” she said. “I cut him off at that point.”

Pizzi said she didn’t know how much Simons had to drink prior to coming into the bar.

When Simons and Brusso left, she said, she could see Simons getting into the driver’s seat.

Jan Heikkinen, assistant medical examiner for Keweenaw County, arrived on the scene of the accident shortly after it occurred.

While there was little external sign of injury, Heikkinen said a CT scan revealed a rupture of the right ventricle, as well as the pericardium. The rupture was caused by rapid deceleration, Heikkinen said.

Heikkinen said she found a contusion on Brusso’s right temple along with lacerations on his hands from recent wounds.

“Is there any real rational explanation for why Mr. Brusso would have a contusion on his forehead, blood on his hand and bruising on his other hand other than he had sustained those injuries prior to impact?” Simons’ attorney, Nicholas Daavettila, asked Heikkinen.

“It would be prior to the impact,” Heikkinen said.

Brusso was also found to have a sternal fracture, which Heikkinen said is usually associated with the wearing of a seat belt.

Based on the amount of blood found in his chest, she said, Brusso died within a minute of the crash.

Simons is charged with operating while intoxicated causing death, failing to stop after causing an accident resulting in death and driving while operating license is suspended or revoked during an accident causing death. All are 15-year felonies.

The trial ended for the day at 2:15 p.m., as the prosecution’s next witness had not arrived in town. The trial is scheduled to conclude today.