A Hawley man’s defense for his charge of DUI last May hinged on breathalyzers, punches, and mouthwash—and a jury of his peers wasn’t buying it. On Tuesday, January 29, Eric James Utegg was found guilty of driving under the influence, after a relatively short trial.


A Hawley man’s defense for his charge of DUI last May hinged on breathalyzers, punches, and mouthwash—and a jury of his peers wasn’t buying it. On Tuesday, January 29, Eric James Utegg was found guilty of driving under the influence, after a relatively short trial.


 “This is a pretty standard DUI case,” said prosecutor Errol Flynn. “DUIs usually go to trial because the sentence the defendant would be facing is high because of such things as previous charges. In Mr. Utegg’s case, because of his priors he is facing at least a 90-day mandatory minimum sentence.”


Of course, Utegg’s sentence was not handed down Tuesday, merely the verdict. But Utegg’s lawyer, Ronald Bugaj, fought hard for his client from the beginning of the case to the end, mounting a defense that hinged on an altercation over Diana Dill, the woman who would become Utegg’s wife.


“Eric and I were married on October 20,” said Dill, now known as Diana Utegg, when she took the stand in her husband’s defense on Tuesday afternoon. After the wedding, the Uteggs set up house in Dill’s former home, on the Hawley side of Rickard’s farm on the Owego turnpike. The location would become important in establishing the timeline so crucial to the defense of the events that happened on May 25th.


As Mrs. Utegg told the story, with details filled in by Attorney Bugaj, the events of the day came into focus. In May, the two were estranged lovers, and Eric Utegg was living with a friend, Lori Caswell, on Mill Creek Road. On the morning of May 25, he drove to Diana Dill’s residence to discuss rekindling their relationship, a talk that according to both of them went very well.


“We had some coffee, and talked outside. I can’t drive anywhere, because of my medication, so in the summer I like to spend lots of time outside. We agreed to give it another try.”


Around 3:25, Dill’s children came home from school, and Utegg left to mow his lawn. But they parted company determined to rekindle their romance; as Attorney Bugaj put it, “It couldn’t have been a better day for Mr. Utegg.”


There was only one problem; since separating, Dill had started a relationship with another man, Danny Morales. And he wasn’t pleased with the idea of Dill reconciling with her former boyfriend.


“When Eric drove up to the house, Danny went out and confronted him,” said Mrs. Utegg. “Danny punched him in the mouth and went to call the police on him for trespassing. Eric drove off, he didn’t even get out of his truck.”


In the hours between leaving Diana Dill’s home that afternoon and returning that evening, Mr. Utegg admitted to consuming two Michelob Ultra Light beers. However, Attorney Bugaj claimed, they were not responsible for the .219% BAC he blew when pulled over by police on his way home.


“After being punched, Mr. Utegg reached under his seat and pulled out a full bottle of mouthwash,” said Attorney Bugaj. “In total, he rinsed his mouth six times before passing by the state police barracks and being picked up. He thought the police were coming for him because of the trespassing call.”


However, prosecutor Flynn had already called as a witness Corporal Michael Anthony Huffstutler, who administered the Intoxilyzer 5000 test which determined Utegg’s blood alcohol level.


“If you were to swish your mouth full of mouthwash and then immediately blow into a breathalyzer, your reading would be off the charts,” he said. “However, as time passes it dissipates, and after 20 minutes your mouth alcohol level is completely back to normal...we monitored Utegg, and he did not have anything to eat or drink for 20 minutes before we performed the test.”


As to the defense’s assertion that Mr. Utegg absorbed the alcohol in the mouthwash through the cut in his mouth, Prosecutor Flynn pointed out the law referred to the content of alcohol in the bloodstream, not how it got there.


More information on Utegg’s sentence will be published in the Independent as it becomes available.