Attorney in possible DUI fatality has history of trouble - East Valley Tribune: News

Attorney in possible DUI fatality has history of trouble

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2003 6:41 am | Updated: 1:39 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Keith Alan Moore had battled his demons hard before.

By his own admission, the East Valley attorney neglected his son and ruined his Tempe law practice for the bottle before sobering up in 1995 and re-establishing both.

His toughest battles may be ahead, though, as he awaits word on whether authorities will charge him with homicide in the death of Dobson High School senior Yong Jin Kim, the bicyclist Moore struck and killed Wednesday.

A breath test after the crash put his bloodalcohol level at twice the legal limit to be considered driving under the influence and three bottles of vodka that had been opened were found in the car where his 10-year-old son was riding, police said.

On Friday, detectives still were sorting out the facts of the case.

Mesa detective Tim Gaffney said his department decided not to book Moore because the case is so complex and needs to be done thoroughly to determine which charges are appropriate.

"There’s lots of factors involved in this case," Gaffney said.

Investigators need to wait for Moore’s blood to be analyzed, they have to determine his speed, when the light turned green for him and when Kim entered the intersection against the "Don’t Walk" sign, Gaffney said.

He said it is not unusual for Mesa police to not arrest someone suspected of drunken driving and vehicular homicide immediately after a crash.

Authorities consider a defendant’s flight risk and weight of the evidence.

Tempe defense attorney David Cantor, who is not representing Moore, said police should also consider whether he is a danger to the community when deciding whether to free him.

The norm for misdemeanor DUI arrests is to cite and release the suspect, said Cantor, who has represented at least 15 people charged with vehicular homicide. But felony DUI defendants, which include those accused of DUI with a child in the car, DUI involving a crash or DUI on a suspended license, almost always go to jail and see a judge who sets bond, Cantor said.

"I’ve never had a guy on a vehicular homicide who didn’t get put in front of a judge," Cantor said.

Moore was convicted of drunken driving in 1996 but his blood-alcohol content was unknown because he refused to be tested, court records show.

He had already had a couple of stints in rehabilitation programs under his belt when on Aug. 24, 1995, Moore was drinking in the afternoon at a Chandler bar.

An employee from his law office called Chandler police and told them Moore might drive, court records show.

An officer waited in the bar’s parking lot and watched as Moore walked to his car, fumbled with his keys, got inside and started the car, according to transcripts of police testimony.

Moore denied starting the engine and argued that he was not "driving" the car because he didn’t start it; he turned the ignition only to the accessory position so his car phone would work, according to court records.

He entered a 30-day rehab program the next month, and in divorce papers dated February 1997, declared that he had been sober since then, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, rebuilding his law practice, reputation and relationship with his son.

"Father was absent from the home more than he should have been prior to 8/95 and that a significant portion of that absence was a direct result of Father’s struggles with the disease of alcohol," he wrote in the divorce papers.

Moore did not respond to attempts to reach him for comment Friday.

Hung Kim, who attends the Scottsdale Light House Church where Yong Jin Kim sang in the church chorus and was an integral part of the year-old congregation, drove by the crash site Friday afternoon on his way to visit the Kims.

He was stunned that Moore had not been jailed.

"He’s a free man? That’s not right," said Hung Kim, of Ahwatukee Foothills, who is unrelated to Yong Jin Kim. "Does he have money? Does he have power? Is that why? "

Hung Kim was one of a steady stream of visitors who stopped by a memorial erected at the crash site at Guadalupe Road and Rogers Street in Mesa by members of Dobson High School’s choral group and dance club.

Mourners left candles, roses and personal notes to Yong Kim.

"Thanks for making me laugh," read one.

Another read: "Jin, you kept me in line and made me work. I’m so grateful for our short time."

J.J. Manning, a 17-year-old senior, stopped by during lunch to place a single rose amid the dozen or so bouquets already at the site.

"I brought a white rose as a sign of peace," Manning said. "I hope it brings him some ease because I know he is watching over us still."

Cathy McMillan also visited the scene Friday. Her son Brandon VanderZanden was killed by a drunken driver along with three other youths on March 24, 1996. The car they were driving in was the same car used in an assembly about the dangers of drinking and driving at Dobson the morning Yong Kim died.

"I just brought a note for the parents of Yong Kim because I know how much they are hurting," McMillan said. "It’s always painful (to hear about these accidents). I know what the parents are feeling and it’s a horrible pain and it happens too often."

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