SARASOTA — The Florida Highway Patrol has recommended a DUI manslaughter charge be filed against former Braden River High School football coach Josh Hunter.
Troopers referred the felony charge to prosecutors for further review late last week, said Earl Varn, a felony chief with the state attorney’s office in Sarasota.
“We’ve been talking to the trooper for months about the case, but he’s been overwhelmed with other DUI manslaughter investigations,” Varn said Tuesday. “We just got the file and are hoping to make a filing decision within the next few weeks.”
As of late Tuesday no formal charge had been filed.
On March 21, Hunter was driving his Ford pickup in south Sarasota County when it crashed on an on-ramp on Interstate 75 near Nokomis. Braden River football assistant coach Doug Garrity, Hunter’s best friend and a passenger in the backseat, died when he was ejected from the SUV.
No sobriety tests were given at the scene and no arrest was made. But troopers drew Hunter’s blood and sent it to a lab for drug and alcohol testing.
In April, the toxicology reports came back.
“We’ve completed our case, we’ve submitted the case and are waiting on them to make a determination,” Lt. Chris Miller said Tuesday.
Neither troopers nor prosecutors would reveal the results as charges have not been filed.
“We would hope the state attorney’s office would decline to prosecute based on some of the facts that have come to my attention,” said Brett McIntosh, Hunter’s attorney. “I won’t elaborate, but if they do charge Josh he is prepared to surrender himself and face the charges. This has been very difficult on Josh, his family and everyone involved.”
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
There is no limit on how long law enforcement has to release a toxicology report to prosecutors.
“Until they feel it is adequately investigated they can hold on to it,” said Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky, with the state attorney’s office in Bradenton.
DUI manslaughter carries a three-year statute of limitation.
A state champion during his playing days at Southeast High School, Hunter was named Braden River’s first head football coach in March 2005.
In April he resigned from his job as head football coach.
Last month, Hunter resigned his position as a physical education teacher, Principal Jim Pauley said Tuesday.
In a letter to school officials, Hunter wrote that he resigned because he didn’t want to be “detrimental to the kids or the athletes with the uncertainty of everything over his head”, Pauley said. “He loved these kids, so it was tough for him.”
Ed Volz is now the Braden River head coach.