Chemung County Judge Richard Rich has found 19-year-old Caden Charnetski guilty of first degree vehicular manslaughter.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 16. at 11:30 a.m. Until then, Charnetki remains out of custody.
Charnetski’s lawyer, Ray Schlather, said this extensive bench trial has been painful and difficult not only for Charnetski and his family, but for the Matteson family too.
“Nobody wins in this kind of case,” Schlather said. “I think the judge did the best he can and could.”
Tears streamed on both ends as the reality of the verdict consumed the courtroom.
“It was a flurry of many emotions, mainly of sadness and joy,” Colleen Hogan, Matthew Matteson’s Aunt, said. “This is justice served but at the same time, it’s a tragedy for both sides.”
Prosecution attorney Weeden Wetmore said if Charnetski is sent to state prison, he could face a maximum of five to fifteen years and a minimum of one year.
Along with this, considering the accident happened when Charnetski was still 18 years of, the option of granting Charnetski a youthful offender status remains on the table.
The maximum sentence under that status would be four years in prison.
As New York State lies on the brink of legalizing marijuana, Schalther said the problem is the state’s presumptions and applications of the law as it pertains to marijuana. He said it must be visited by the appellate courts.
Schlather said he believes this case highlights the very real problems with the state’s legislative system.
He stated that when there is an extremely modest amount of marijuana consumed and a tragedy unfolds, “the concern, of course, is that by operation of law, the court really has no choice but to find this kind of result”.
Schlather said they will address the issue on appeal after Charnetski’s sentencing in August.
The verdict of this case comes nearly one year after two worlds collided that summer evening on July 10, 2018.
“I miss them both so much, having two lives taken is way too much for one person to handle without them saying goodbye,” Hogan said. “At the same time, my heart goes to the Charnetski family because of what he’s about to face.”
Back in January, Charnetski pled not guilty to vehicular manslaughter for the deaths of Matthew Matteson, 43, and his wife Harolyn Matteson, 42.
The Matteson’s were ejected from a motorcycle after colliding head-on with Charnetski’s car on Westinghouse Road in Horseheads on July 10, 2018.
Law enforcement testified that Charnetski and two passengers had been smoking marijuana at Tanglewood Nature Center and Arnot Mall.
Passengers also said Charnetski was driving erratically prior to the crash.
Police said the smell of marijuana was evident at the scene as well as a sandwich bag of marijuana.
Charnetski previously waived his right to testify during the bench trial.
Dr. Ahmed Nour, a resident physician at Arnot Ogden, attended to Charnetski at the hospital shortly after the accident. He confirmed on the trial’s ninth day that Charnetski did not show signs of impairment by Marijuana at the time of the health exams.
Defense Attorney Ray Schlather filed a motion to dismiss the case twice during the bench trial. He said there were other reasonable explanations, other than marijuana, that caused the accident.
One included the motorcycle’s speed, which the defense said mathematical calculations determined it traveled at 63 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone.
Another factor the defense mentioned was the youthful and inexperienced driving skills of then 18-year-old Charnetski. They also said the busyness of the street that day showed a slight topography issue with road conditions.
Prosecution attorney, Weeden Wetmore, rebutted saying the speed of the motorcycle does not exonerate Charnetski’s fault of failing to yield the right of way.
Schlather also pointed out a preservation issue with the Matteson’s motorcycle in which he asked for sanctions on the prosecution for evidence tampering.
He said scuff marks and paint transfers on the Harley-Davidson from original scene photos were no longer visible because the Horseheads Police Departments did not thoroughly preserve the evidence at the impound lot.
Wetmore said he doesn’t think there should be sanctions.
The judge said there was no letter requesting to store and protect the motorcycle nor did Schlather request to do so after examining it last July, shortly after the accident.