CROWN POINT | Prosecutors on Thursday launched a second attempt to persuade a Lake County jury to hold a Valparaiso man responsible for a traffic crash on Interstate 65 nearly two years ago that left a Hebron road service worker dead.
The first trial of Jeffery Cleary, the 66-year-old owner of a Gary-based construction company, ended with jurors deadlocking on the most serious of seven charges against Cleary.
The most serious charge is operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or above causing a death. A conviction on that charge would result in Cleary, who has three prior drunken driving charges, facing a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
During opening statements Thursday, deputy prosecuting attorney Monica Rogina told jurors they would hear extensive testimony showing Cleary was driving with a BAC well above 0.15 when his Land Rover struck a pickup truck in the southbound lane of I-65 the night of Nov. 4, 2010.
The pickup's driver, 63-year-old Philip Amsden, was in front of the pickup fixing a tire on a semitrailer. The impact crushed Amsden between the two vehicles.
Rogina said witnesses would testify to the level of Cleary's drinking at a Munster restaurant and a Hobart bar the day of the crash, including six double vodkas with water.
Defense attorney Kevin Milner said those six drinks were taken over a period of six hours, which began as a working lunch, followed by wine several hours later just prior to Cleary's getting on I-65 off Ridge Road.
The weather was windy, rainy and slippery when three semitrailers to the left of Cleary left him with little road to navigate around Amsden's pickup, which was not parked properly off the road, Milner told jurors.