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BY KEYONNA SUMMERS • FLORIDA TODAY • January 7, 2009

Bike builder faces
 extra felony charge
Prosecutors add vehicular homicide

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Prosecutors have filed an additional felony charge against famed motorcycle builder Billy Lane.

     Lane, 38, was charged two years ago with one count of DUI manslaughter in connection with a Labor Day 2006 traffic accident in which 56-year-old Sebastian Inlet park ranger Gerald Morelock died.
     Police said Lane's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he crossed a double yellow line to pass several cars near Melbourne Beach, striking Morelock's motorcycle head-on.
     DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
     However, the Brevard state attorney's office has filed an alternative charge of vehicular homicide, also a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
    Prosecutor Tom Brown said he filed the charge in response to a November hearing, during which Lane's attorneys withdrew their bid to bar trial testimony about the blood evidence and said they would instead raise the issue at trial.
     Once the defendant waives their right to speedy trial, there is a three-year statute of limitations on filing charges against him or her, Brown said.
     Brown said filing the vehicular homicide charge, which requires the state to prove Lane was driving recklessly but does not include a drug or alcohol element needed to prove DUI manslaughter, ensures prosecutors are able to proceed at trial, no matter the judge's ruling on the blood evidence.
     "We are preparing for all eventualities at trial," he said.
     Lane's defense attorney, Greg Eisenmenger, said he doesn't believe there's any basis for either charge.
    The defense had Lane's blood samples re-tested early last year at an out-of-state lab on the theory that mishandling by police possibly led to contamination and a skewed blood-alcohol reading.
     But rather than tip their hand, defense lawyer Robert Berry said they would withdraw the lab as a witness and instead reveal the results at trial in another manner and attempt to prove their theory about the skewed blood results through the state's witnesses.
     "This is a tragic accident that doesn't rise to the level of willful and wanton reckless driving," Eisenmenger said of the new charge. "And there's significant issues whether Mr. Lane was under the influence of anything at the time of the accident."
     Lane's trial is set for Feb. 9.



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