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Former football coach set for DUI manslaughter trial

SARASOTA — The trial for a former Braden River High School football coach charged with DUI manslaughter remains on track for next month, lawyers in the case said today.

Josh Hunter, 33, appeared in a Sarasota courtroom this morning for a brief hearing on the charge. He is accused of causing the March 21, 2009, death of his friend Doug Garrity in a single-vehicle car crash in south Sarasota County.

Circuit Judge Donna Berlin today announced Hunter is set to stand trial the third week of April, with jury selection set for April 19.

Court papers show his private attorney, Brett McIntosh, has filed a motion requesting jurors visit the scene of the crash.

Photos and testimony submitted by prosecutors fail to “fully depict the true nature of the roadway,” according to a motion filed by McIntosh.

Berlin will decide if jurors visit the crash site during a hearing on April 15.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say Hunter was drunk when his Ford Truck flipped on an Interstate 75 on-ramp near Nokomis. 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.

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.

Hunter’s blood alcohol level was 0.21 after the crash. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

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.

McIntosh also has filed a motion to exclude any references or photos of troopers holding beer bottles found near the truck after the accident. McIntosh called the bottle’s reference “purely speculative.”

“Even if it were established that the bottles were related to the accident, there is no evidence that they are related to the defendant,” he wrote in a motion.

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

His case is being prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Matt Sandburg.

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, resigned his position as a physical education teacher at the school.

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