The death of an innocent person is no time to say I told you so, but the recent fatal DWI accident in Ocean County involving 25-year-old American Idol contestant, Alexis Cohen, points up something that no one should ever contemplate when pulled over for driving while intoxicated. As a New Jersey drunk driving lawyer, I’m holding this incident up as an object lesson of what NOT to do. Never attempt to flee from the police. Nothing good can come of it.
In this instance, what might have been a relatively simple case of driving under the influence of alcohol coupled with a minor parking lot fender-bender instead turned into a tragic case of vehicular manslaughter. According to reports, a 23-year-old Toms River, NJ, man had left the scene of the fender-bender next to Hemingway’s Bar shortly before 4 a.m. last Saturday when his 2005 Mitsubishi Galant struck and killed Cohen, who was on foot.
The driver, Daniel Bark, allegedly hit a parked car in the lot adjacent to the bar, after which a bicycle-mounted Seaside Heights police officer attempted to stop the man. According to news reports, Bark fled west on Dupont Avenue and turned right onto Bay Boulevard, traveling north in the southbound lane. Authorities believe that this is where Bark hit the pedestrian, Ms. Miss Cohen.
Instead of stopping, Bark reportedly continued along Bay Boulevard for a couple of blocks until officers in patrol cars intercepted him at Hamilton Avenue as he headed for the bridge to Toms River. At the time, officers did not know that Ms. Cohen had been hit by the suspect.
Police records show that Bark, who refused a Breathalyzer test, had a previous drunken driving conviction from April 2004, after which his driver’s license was suspended for 90 days. He was arrested and issued summonses stemming from the traffic stop, including driving while intoxicated, four counts of failure to yield or stop, reckless driving, failure to report an accident, driving without insurance, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to stay to the right, refusing a Breathalyzer test, failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to obey an officer’s command, careless driving and traveling the wrong way on a one-way street.
This was all before police learned of the pedestrian fatality allegedly caused by Bark. Police re-arrested the man a day later and charged him with Cohen’s death. He now has additional charges to deal with including aggravated manslaughter, death by auto and eluding police. As I said, nothing good ever comes from fleeing an officer of the law.
Driver faces manslaughter, DWI charges in American Idol contestant Alexis Cohen’s death, www.NJ.com, July 27, 2009