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Former coach’s brother jailed for contempt

SARASOTA — A judge Tuesday jailed the brother of a former Braden River High School football coach charged with DUI manslaughter after he refused to answer questions about the night of the fatal crash.

James Hunter, 39, of Bradenton, was booked into the Sarasota County jail on a civil contempt of court charge.

Hunter had been ordered by Circuit Judge Donna Berlin to give a deposition Tuesday morning about who was driving a truck when it flipped and killed Doug Garrity, an assistant football coach at Braden River High.

Hunter’s brother, former Braden River head football coach Josh Hunter, 33, is awaiting trial next month on a DUI manslaughter charge.

But during a meeting this morning at the state attorney’s office in Sarasota, James Hunter refused to speak about the case, said Assistant State Attorney Matt Sandburg.

James Hunter’s attorney, Paul Hudson, said his client asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because prosecutors have threatened to charge him with being an accessory after the fact. They claim he’s helping his brother avoid prosecution, Hudson said.

“He just doesn’t want to be part of the testimony against his brother,” Hudson said late Tuesday afternoon.

Prosecutors say James Hunter initially told investigators that his brother was driving the Ford truck that overturned March 21, 2009, on an Interstate 75 on-ramp in south Sarasota.

During a court hearing Tuesday afternoon, Berlin ruled James Hunter did not have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment and found him in civil contempt. Bailiffs then handcuffed him and took him to jail.

He’ll remain there unless he complies with the court’s order to testify, lawyers in the case said.

Prosecutors in the case also subpoenaed Hunter’s parents to see if they knew who was driving at the time of the accident, Hudson said.

Prosecutors say James Hunter is the only person who can testify that his brother was driving. The other passenger in the car, Matthew Braselton, told prosecutors he does not remember who was driving.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say Garrity died after he was ejected from a back seat. Josh Hunter, James Hunter and Braselton were not injured.

Troopers say Josh Hunter’s blood alcohol level was 0.21 after the crash, almost three times the legal limit of .08.

If convicted of DUI manslaughter, Josh Hunter faces a minimum of four to 15 years in prison.