N.J. attorney facing drunk driving charges says his shoes caused St. Croix accident


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ST. CROIX - A New Jersey attorney made his initial court appearance in V.I. Magistrate Court on Thursday morning, not representing anyone, but as the defendant charged with causing an accident while driving drunk in which police said he hit a parked car and two bystanders.

Christopher Coleman, a long-time compliance attorney for HOVENSA, was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor and negligent driving.

Neither of the bystanders was seriously injured.

According to court documents filed in the case, two men told police they were doing some work under a friend's car outside a Gallows Bay bar about 3 a.m. Thursday when a vehicle driven by a "white woman" - now identified as Coleman - approached, the driver lost control, spun out and hit the car with them under it.

The bystanders initially thought Coleman was a woman because when he was arrested, he was wearing a wig and lipstick and was dressed in women's clothing.

One of the men told police that Coleman's vehicle did not stop immediately, so the man scrambled out from under the car and gave chase as Coleman's vehicle went over a concrete hump in the road and slowly came to a stop several yards away.

The two men then called police.

According to court documents, police said when they arrived on the scene, the found Coleman and the two bystanders, who suffered minor injuries, waiting on the scene.

According to his booking pictures, which V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said she could not provide Thursday evening, Coleman was conservatively dressed in a long patterned skirt and jacket and was wearing women's shoes. He wore a short blonde wig and bright red lipstick.

Police said Coleman appeared to be drunk and had a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person.

According to police, Coleman told the officers that he did not lose control of the vehicle because he was drunk, but because his shoe had gotten stuck under the gas pedal, causing the vehicle to accelerate, and he lost control.

Police said Coleman failed the three standard field sobriety tests and refused to blow into the machine to comply with the chemical breath test.

Coleman posted bail, which had been set at $1,000, and during his advice-of-rights hearing Magistrate Miguel Camacho ordered that his driver's license be suspended for a period of 90 days because of a mandatory local penalty for anyone who refuses to comply with taking the sobriety test.

However, Coleman was allowed to retain the license because he uses it as his only source of identification when he travels. He was given permission to return to New Jersey once his duties on this trip are completed and can come back for his next court date.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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