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Former Braden River coach’s trial set

SARASOTA — Former Braden River High School football coach Josh Hunter will stand trial this spring on a charge of DUI manslaughter, a judge ruled Thursday.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say Hunter, 31, was drunk when he crashed his truck on March 21, 2009 near Nokomis, killing his best friend Doug Garrity. Hunter’s attorney, Brett McIntosh, said authorities claim his client’s blood alcohol level was 0.21 after the crash. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

Hunter appeared before Circuit Judge Donna Berlin for a case management hearing at the Sarasota County courthouse.

After a private discussion with the judge and prosecutors, Berlin set Hunter’s trial for April 19.

“There is a great deal of work to be done on both sides of the case,” Berlin said at the conclusion of the brief hearing.

Hunter was reportedly driving his Ford truck in south Sarasota County when it flipped on an Interstate 75 on-ramp. Garrity, a football assistant coach, died when he was ejected from a back seat.

Hunter and the other passengers in the truck, his brother, James Hunter and Matthew Braselton, were not injured.

According to reports, after the crash Trooper George Yock said Hunter had a “strong odor of alcohol about his person and watery, bloodshot eyes.”

Also at the scene, troopers photographed an open Michelob Ultra Beer bottle inside the truck and “numerous Michelob Ultra beer bottles and cans” near the truck where it came to a stop after it overturned.

James Hunter and Braselton wrote in statements to investigators that Hunter was driving home to Bradenton and veered off the road to avoid striking a deer.

No sobriety tests were given at the scene and no arrest was made. But FHP troopers drew Hunter’s blood and sent it to a lab for drug and alcohol testing.

A DUI manslaughter arrest warrant for Hunter was issued in October. He turned himself in, was arrested and posted bond.

Hunter faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of DUI manslaughter.

A state champion during his playing days at Southeast High School, Hunter was named Braden River’s first head football coach in March 2005.

He resigned as coach in April, and a few months later he resigned his position as a physical education teacher at the school.

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