Cape Cod Times
November 30, 2007
Hilary Russ, Staff Writer
BARNSTABLE — Gustavo Ramirez Jr., the man charged in his girlfriend’s death after she fell from the window of his moving car in Provincetown, was acquitted of all charges against him yesterday in Barnstable Superior Court.
After the verdict was read, Ramirez bear-hugged his crying grandmother, who clutched a rosary during the two-day bench trial. Ramirez’s father, Gustavo Ramirez Sr., who said he runs a private federal prison in New York State, clapped once then hugged defense attorney J. Drew Segadelli. After they walked out of the courtroom, Ramirez’s grandmother sobbed and leaned into a wall.
Ramirez, 37, of Troy, N.Y., was charged with involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping and leaving the scene of a deadly accident after his girlfriend, Katherine Wagoner, jumped or fell from Ramirez’s car as he drove down Route 6 near the Truro line last year.
Prosecutor J. Thomas Kirkman argued Ramirez should have pulled the car over when Wagoner kicked out the passenger side window. At the very least, Kirkman said, Ramirez should have pulled over to let Wagoner out or stopped the car after she fell.
After closing arguments yesterday, Judge Richard Connon returned to his chambers and emerged with a verdict about a half hour later.
Connon found the evidence against Ramirez wasn’t enough to show that he caused Wagoner’s death — he did not cause any kind of accident.
What’s more, Connon said, it wasn’t known whether Wagoner fell or jumped out the car window. There was nowhere to pull over on that stretch of Route 6, where a sandy berm runs up to the roadway, and Ramirez did make some attempt — grabbing the waistband of Wagoner’s pants — to try to stop her from flying out of the window.
Ramirez did not, in short, set in motion the chain of events that led to Wagoner’s death, according to the judge’s interpretation of the evidence.
Connon also said that despite possible negligent behavior, the manslaughter charge did not “rise to the level of wanton, reckless conduct.”
While police testified that Ramirez did not appear to be driving drunk that night, Wagoner’s blood alcohol level was .19, more than twice the legal limit.
After a motion by Segadelli, Connon found Ramirez not guilty of the kidnapping charge even before closing arguments. Only one witness heard Wagoner yell “help” from inside the car, Connon said, and the facts required him to find Ramirez not guilty.
“I’d like to revel in victory, but you can’t in light of this sad loss of life,” Segadelli said afterward.
The legal case for the defense was strong. That’s why Segadelli decided on a bench trial instead of leaving the evidence in the hands of jurors, who might be swayed by emotion to find Ramirez guilty.
Kirkman disagreed with the verdicts.
“I had my view. The judge had a different view, and he’s the judge,” Kirkman said. “Any time we have a death, we really have to look closely at it.”
Wagoner had a troubled past. Before her death, she was released from a New York prison after being prosecuted on drug charges. While serving her sentence, she slipped in a puddle, broke her leg and sued the state, winning the money that brought the couple to the Cape, according to Segadelli and Times archives.
Wagoner’s death was a tragic end to “a really rough life,” according to Cathy Green in the Times archives. Green, who identified herself as Wagoner’s cousin, also said Wagoner lost custody of her two children, who were then put up for adoption years ago.
Ramirez declined to comment, but his father said the family was glad the trial was over.
“We’re all elated that justice was served here,” he said.
Ramirez Sr., who lives in Kingston, N.Y., said he had been fielding calls from his large extended family in Puerto Rico and Florida.
“The only problem my son had here was that he made a poor decision when she fell out the window,” he said. “This is not going to go away when we get in the car and go home.”
Hilary Russ can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Taken from http://www.capecodonline.com