Multiple investigators, including two automobile manufacturers, are expected to take weeks if not months to reconstruct the high-speed Orono crash in July that killed two young men, including the son of University of Minnesota men's hockey coach Bob Motzko, according to comments made during a court hearing Monday.
Fred Bruno, defense attorney for James D. Blue, 51, told Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu that "speed discrepancy" will be the main issue in the case, and he raised, for the first time, the prospect of a mechanical failure with the vehicle. Bruno said the car's "black box" that recorded information about the car's movements will be the critical piece of evidence.
Blue faces two counts of third-degree murder and four counts of negligent and drunken driving in the deaths of Mack Motzko and Sam Schuneman. Motzko, 20, and Schuneman, 24, were passengers in the Bentley that Blue is alleged to have driven at up to 99 miles per hour before crashing into a wooded area while under the influence of alcohol and other substances.
Bruno said the possibility of mechanical failure with the luxury Bentley automobile is "not just originating in the defense mind but in law enforcement." The hearing lasted less than 15 minutes and was conducted on the internet with Blue and Bruno sitting together in an office.
Chu asked Bruno, "Is there a claim that the vehicle malfunctioned?"
Bruno responded, "That's what we don't know."
The defense lawyer also revealed that "due to the exotic nature of the vehicle" multiple independent investigations were being conducted, including by manufacturers Bentley and Volkswagen. Bruno said the city of Orono also had hired its own "master mechanics" to investigate the crash.
But Bruno said the defense can't begin its investigation or begin building a case until the Minnesota State Patrol completes the primary crash scene probe — something that could take months. Chu set the next hearing for Dec. 28 with the expectation the State Patrol's scene analysis will be done by then with the information provided to the defense.
According to the criminal complaint against Blue, the initial investigation revealed that the brakes were used 2.5 seconds before the crash on a curvy, tree-lined roadway with many obscured driveways and speed limits of 35 and 45 miles per hour.
Blue's blood-alcohol concentration tested at 0.175% after the crash, more than double the legal limit of 0.08%. Testing also found Blue's blood contained THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, according to the charges.
Motzko and Schuneman, who lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., but was from Maple Grove, had been invited to Blue's home on Lake Minnetonka by a mutual friend less than an hour before the crash. The complaint alleged Blue was trying to show off his Bentley by taking the two for a ride on North Shore Drive.
On July 24, police were called to the crash site near Blue's home in the 3100 block of North Shore Drive. Police found Blue's Bentley in a wooded area with a tree on top of it.
Schuneman was belted into the front passenger seat and dead at the scene. Motzko was found unconscious, belted in and trapped in the seat behind the driver. He died at the hospital.
Blue, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car and found conscious and lying in some trees. He allegedly admitted his guilt and was taken to a hospital.
Prosecutors have filed notice with the court that they will seek a longer than normal sentence for Blue because of the nature of the crash.
Blue posted $500,000 cash bail and is free without conditions pending trial.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747