Thrashers star won't be in court

Dany Heatley will enter a not guilty plea Thursday to charges in connection with the death of Dan Snyder, but the Atlanta Thrashers star will not appear in court himself.

An Atlanta judge has granted the player permission to miss Thursday's preliminary hearing, the first to be held in connection with the car crash nearly a year ago that killed Snyder and left Heatley badly injured.

The preliminary hearing comes just two days after Heatley represents Canada in the final of the World Cup of Hockey.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes will allow Heatley's Atlanta-based lawyer, Ed Garland, to act on the hockey player's behalf.

Garland, who was unavailable for comment Monday, has indicated that Heatley will enter a not guilty plea.

A spokeswoman for the Fulton Country District Attorney's office said Heatley will not appear in court Thursday.

"The judge gave his lawyers permission to do without him," said Lynn Vaughn. "That's not unusual."

Heatley was indicted July 16 by a Fulton County grand jury, charged with first- and second-degree vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain his lane and speeding.

The prosecution, led by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, is likely to suggest Heatley was driving recklessly when he crashed his high-powered 2002 Ferrari 360 Spider F into a brick pillar and wrought-iron fence in an Atlanta suburb.

The crash split Heatley's car in two and left 25-year-old Snyder, of Elmira, Ontario, with head injuries. Snyder died six days later in hospital without regaining consciousness.

In total, Heatley faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars and fines totaling $5,000 if convicted on all six counts.

Garland's argument is that the case should be treated as a traffic offense, not as a homicide.