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Hornets' Coleman Acquitted Of DWI

Charlotte Hornets forward Derrick Coleman was acquitted of drunken driving Wednesday when a judge said prosecutors did not prove he player was intoxicated at the time of a 1999 traffic wreck.

Teammate Eldridge Recasner was seriously injured in the crash.

Mecklenburg District Judge Eric L. Levinson said authorities had failed to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt that Coleman was legally impaired.

"I cannot make that finding," said Levinson, who found Coleman guilty on a related charge of unsafe movement. Coleman, in the second season of a five-year, $40 million contract, was fined $100 and ordered to pay $86 in court costs.

Coleman declined to discuss the case as he left the courthouse.

The charges stemmed from a crash that occurred early on the morning of Oct. 27 when Coleman, driving a sports utility vehicle, made a left turn and was struck on the passenger's side by an oncoming tractor-trailer.

Coleman, 32, and a passenger, Ebony Kimbrough, 25, both had facial cuts.

Recasner, 32, a backup guard for the Hornets, was riding in the front passenger seat and suffered a fractured right shoulder, a collapsed lung and numerous other injuries in his chest, requiring extensive rehabilitation.

Recasner remains on the injured list but has begun practicing again and the club is hopeful he will resume playing soon.

Levinson's ruling came after defense attorney George Laughrun noted that two paramedics and one police officer called by the state testified that when they saw Coleman at the crash scene, his eyes were not glassy. Medical tests conducted at the scene and later at a hospital also led to the determination that Coleman was not disoriented, Laughrun said.

Laughrun also noted that one police officer called by the state testified that he asked for an additional officer to come to the scene to get a second opinion about Coleman.

Coleman told officers he had been drinking champagne earlier in the evening, but refused to submit to a breath examination or other sobriety tests at the crash scene, and he would not consent to a blood test when he got to the hospital.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Sigmon said authorities should be allowed to draw logical conclusions from Coleman's refusal to consent to any of the tests in the field and at the hospital.

"The state would contend the reason he chose not to do these things was because he knew himself he was impaired that evening," she said.

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