Ellis Drinking, Speeding Before Crash, Jurors Told

Seattle SuperSonics basketball player Dale Ellis drank 10 ounces of vodka, then drove his luxury black coupe at speeds up to 65 mph before he crashed it last January, a prosecutor said at Ellis' trial today.

Deputy Prosecutor Kristen Richardson said in opening statements that Ellis, who is accused of drunken and reckless driving, was driving at twice the legal speed limit on Mercer Street before smashing into a divider near the entrance to Interstate 5.

Richardson said staff members at two restaurant-bars, Benjamin's and Celebrity Bar and Grill, will testify about cocktails they served Ellis between 10 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12:30 a.m. Jan. 12, the prosecutor said.

Richardson said Ellis downed four double-shot drinks, each with 2 1/2 ounces of vodka.

When Ellis first was approached by State Trooper Allen Larned, it was clear to to the officers that Ellis was weaving, had watery eyes and was staring glassy-eyed, Richardson said.

The red candies Ellis ate did not hide the smell of intoxicants, she said. When one witness came upon the accident scene, Ellis explained his dilemma by saying ``I was driving too fast,'' according to the prosecutor.

But defense attorney Jeffrey Jones told the six jurors hearing the case that although Ellis had been drinking that night, there is evidence he was not drunk.

Derek Harper, Ellis' drinking companion and long-time player friend on the Dallas Mavericks, was ordering the drinks that night, Jones said. There is evidence to show Ellis did not drink all that he was served, the attorney said.

Ellis had the wreck while considering whether to take the northbound or southbound ramp to the freeway, to go home to the Eastside, Jones said.

The jury is composed of three men and three women, including one professed fan of the NBA team.