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Lake Murray boat crash update: Gordon testifies in own defense, saying he is a "light drinker," despite prosecutions claim he was intoxicated

Tracy Gordon says he was not impaired when the boat he was operating crashed into another boat in September 2019. The prosecution, however, says he was intoxicated.

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Court has resumed in trial about a 2019 Lake Murray boat crash that killed a man and severely injured his wife and daughter.

Monday marked the first full day of witness testimony for the defense in the State of South Carolina versus Tracy L. Gordon, as the defendant took the stand.

“Every weekend, whether I liked it or not, we would go down to the lake,” Gordon testified about his childhood, boating on a lake in Illinois. 

Gordon spoke to the jury, prompted by defense attorney Jack Swerling, about his childhood learning how to drive a boat by 12-years-old.

Gordon explained he moved to South Carolina for his job, where he and his wife routinely take out their boat on Lake Murray when the weather is warm.

In court, he talked about his boating habits as an adult, saying he is a “light drinker” who typically only drinks a couple beers on weekends. 

“I’ve gone out and had a couple of beers just like anyone else at dinner,” Gordon explained. “And no, I don’t go out to get inebriated and drive home.”

But that's what the state says happened on Sept. 21, 2019 when the boat Gordon was operating crashed into another boat, killing 68-year-old Stan Kiser, although Gordon says he was not impaired.

According to court records, Gordon is charged with reckless homicide by operation of a boat and three counts of boating under the influence.

Michael Brantley is a lead instructor in field sobriety tests at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. The defense qualified him as an expert witness in identifying signs of impairment and administered sobriety tests. The jury watched body cam footage from the night of the accident, seeing the defendant talk to officers in the aftermath.

“Based on the video evidence, I have no indications of impairment at all that I can articulate and say that is an indicator of impairment,” Brantley said, when asked by defense attorney Joe McCulloch.

Brantley reviewed the officers’ reports, which the state pointed out show 15 boxes checked by officers on-site, indicating  potential clues of impairment.

“The person who is there observing, evaluating…that is the best person to make the call on how he did on the field sobriety test and whether he was under the influence that night, correct?” the state’s Carter Potts asked during cross-examination.

“Correct,” Brantley agreed.

Katherine Reedy also took the stand. She's a manager at Rusty Anchor, a restaurant Gordon visited with his wife before the crash. Reedy shared her opinion that Gordon did not appear intoxicated, telling the defense that he was not slurring, stumbling or swaying; however, the state pointed out that she had a brief conversation with Gordon when he  first arrived at the restaurant.

More defense witnesses are expected to take the stand when court resumes on Tuesday.

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