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New trial set in drunken driving death case

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Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 4:30 am

BELTON — Judge Martha Trudo voided a guilty plea Wednesday and ordered a new trial for an East Texas man accused of killing a 47-year-old Killeen man while driving drunk.

The judge vacated the plea after evidence came to light that lawyers for suspect Eugene Kelly Wolfenberger had not seen video evidence disputing his reported confession to killing William Edward Reed on Aug. 11, 2010.

Wolfenberger pleaded guilty to charges of intoxicated manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid May 31 in an agreement that capped his sentence at 12 years.

When asked, Wolfenberger told the court he was willing to risk a lengthier sentence by requesting a jury trial. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The ruling came one week after an acrimonious hearing in which Wolfenberger’s defense alleged that prosecutor Mike Waldman did not provide all evidence until after Wolfenberger pleaded guilty May 31.

That evidence included a dash board camera disputing an initial police report, which states Wolfenberger almost immediately confessed to striking Reed and his motorcycle while driving drunk on Westcliff Road in Killeen.

In turn, the prosecution argued lead defense attorney Mike Rizzo had not acted competently in the case, which they insinuated by having him thumb through an unorganized case file for several minutes.

Trudo stated during her ruling Tuesday that the prosecution had provided all evidence in a timely manner. She did not state whether the defense had acted ineffectively in defending Wolfenberger.

“Our representation of Mr. Wolfenberger has not been ineffective as we effectively got Mr. Wolfenberger a new trial,” Rizzo’s co-counsel Brett Pritchard said when reached by phone.

A blood draw taken from the day of his arrest measured Wolfenberger’s blood alcohol at .30, nearly four times the legal limit.

In a separate case, Wolfenberger faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon out of Harrison County, where he lives. A jury trial has been scheduled in May.

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