ST. MARTINVILLE — Jeremy Abraham, the Breaux Bridge man accused in an October hit-and-run that killed two teenage girls and injured another, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday in 16th Judicial District Court.
Abraham, still wearing a neck brace after suffering a cracked vertebrae in the Oct. 30 accident, said nothing in court but entered the plea through his Belle Chasse attorney, Peter Barbee.
The trial date was set Wednesday for July 21.
Niya Flugence, the 13-year-old survivor of the accident that killed her 15-year-old sister, Cornasha, and close friend, 14-year-old Kylee Henry, sat flanked by family members in the courtroom’s front row during the brief arraignment.
Abraham, 32, was charged Jan. 9 of two counts of vehicular homicide and a count of first-degree negligent injuring in the incident. The charges imply that Abraham was impaired at the time of the accident.
The District Attorney’s Office received the results of Abraham’s toxicology report from an Indiana lab Feb. 5, but Assistant DA Chester Cedars declined on Wednesday to discuss its contents.
“We intend to rely upon those results as one piece of evidence, together with other pieces of evidence, to prove that Mr. Abraham was impaired at the time of these crimes,” Cedars said.
Barbee, however, said late Wednesday that his client tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana — at a level of around 1 nanogram of THC per milliliter of blood.
In states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, like Washington, law dictates that drivers are considered impaired with a THC level of 5 ng/mL or higher.
Yet marijuana remains an illegal, Schedule I drug in Louisiana. And while state law prohibits driving while under the influence of any Schedule I-V substance, it does not address specific measurements for what constitutes impairment when it comes to smoking or eating cannabis, Barbee said.
“The only true issue on this is that there’s not a whole lot of clear-cut standard on what (Louisiana) considers impaired with THC,” Barbee said. “But it’s very clear that you have to be under the influence (to be convicted).”
Abraham is accused of traveling twice the 25 mph speed limit in his pickup truck on Breaux Bridge’s Martin Street when he struck the girls, who were walking along the road on their way to school around 7:30 a.m. that day.
Abraham was hospitalized following the accident and booked Nov. 5 into the St. Martin Parish jail, where he’s remained since in lieu of $133,000 bail.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.