Examiner hears trooper claim Gorsuch at wheel

CONCORD – There is only one point of dispute about the crash in which Daniel Rodriguez was killed, State Trooper Carleen Bowman told a Department of Safety hearings examiner Wednesday.

That doesn’t make it a simple case, however.

On behalf of the Division of Motor Vehicles, Bowman seeks to prove Michael Gorsuch was driving Rodriguez’s company car when the pair crashed into trees along Thornton Road in Nashua at 12:26 a.m. Oct. 29, 2007.

The hearing began Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. June 30.

The state seeks to revoke Gorsuch’s license for up to seven years, claiming he killed Rodriguez by speeding recklessly while drunk.

Gorsuch contends that Rodriguez was driving, and the state is wrong.

“There is clear indication that Mr. Gorsuch was not driving the vehicle involved in this accident, but in fact, Mr. Rodriguez was,” said Gorsuch’s lawyer, Steven Levesque, of Nashua.

Two retired State Police accident investigators have reviewed the evidence compiled by Nashua police and agreed Gorsuch could not have been driving. Because of their findings, Hillsborough County prosecutors dropped a negligent homicide charge against Gorsuch.

Bowman said she consulted at length with Nashua police Lt. John Fisher, head of the department’s accident reconstruction team, in reviewing the case. She submitted the departments’ reports on the accident as evidence and an autopsy report by state Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Andrew, who concluded Rodriguez’s injuries “were consistent” with having been a passenger in the car, she said.

Autopsy reports generally are not considered public records, and Hearings Examiner Mark Seymour agreed with Bowman’s request to keep the autopsy report under seal.

“The state will prove by preponderance of the evidence that Michael Gorsuch was in fact driving,” Bowman said.

Bowman announced she was finished toward the end of Wednesday’s hearing but said she plans to present additional exhibits, make a closing statement and call Fisher as a witness.

Levesque objected, arguing Bowman should present all her evidence at once. He said he intends to argue for dismissal, claiming even the state’s best evidence can’t show Gorsuch was driving.

If need be, Gorsuch will present evidence of his own, including the accident reconstruction report (and the expert who prepared it) that persuaded prosecutors to drop the charge against him.

Gorsuch and Rodriguez were close friends, and their friends have said Rodriguez never let anyone drive his company cars.

Rodriguez’s parents, Hector and Barbara Rodriguez, attended the hearing Wednesday in the company of Nashua attorney Tim Bush, but the couple declined to comment on the case. Bush also declined to comment.

Gorsuch and Rodriguez had spent the night at Sky Lounge in Nashua, watching the Red Sox clinch the World Series. They were heading to Rodriguez’s house on Ferncroft Drive, about a half mile away but had passed both roads that would have taken them there.

Police estimated the car was traveling at least double the posted 30 mph limit, perhaps faster, when it began to swerve out of control. The car spun around, and the front passenger side hit a small tree. The passenger door hit a slightly larger tree, and the rear passenger side hit a mature tree, which, unlike the others, didn’t budge, Bowman said.

Neither man was wearing a seatbelt, and Rodriguez, 27, was killed.

“Daniel’s death was immediate, and the injuries were devastating,” Bowman said.

A passerby found Gorsuch outside the car, speaking with a 911 operator on his cell phone.

Gorsuch was “hammered,” he told rescuers and police, and his blood alcohol levels proved him right, the highest of three tests showing a 0.19 percent level, Bowman said.

Rodriguez had a BAC of 0.12, also well over the legal limit at which a person is presumed intoxicated, she said.

Gorsuch gave police conflicting statements about how he’d gotten out of the car, saying first he’d gotten out the passenger door (which was inoperable), next that he’d climbed over Rodriguez (whose body was crumpled in the back seat) and finally that he just didn’t know. He also claimed, at first, that they been wearing seatbelts, Bowman said.

Gorsuch emphatically denied he had been driving during a lengthy interview with detectives, but Bowman didn’t cite the transcript as evidence.

DNA testing on evidence from the crash found Rodriguez’s blood on the front passenger seat, and DNA that could have come from either man on the steering wheel, Bowman said. She didn’t mention the DNA found on a Red Sox cap lodged between the passenger seat and the passenger side airbag; testing showed it was Gorsuch’s cap.

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or awolfe@nashuatelegraph.com.