Vehicular homicide charge dropped against B.G. man
He pleads guilty to DUI; crash deemed unavoidable
Monday, June 7, 2010
Clark County prosecutors dismissed a vehicular homicide charge Monday against a Battle Ground man accused of driving drunk and killing a man in 2006.
The reason? The state couldn’t prove the crash was avoidable. Jason D. Simonds, 32, was driving on a dark stretch of Northeast 72nd Avenue at 2 a.m. when he struck a driver who had stepped out if his brown Oldsmobile after getting it partially stuck in a ditch. Accident reconstructionists concluded that because of the poor visibility, any driver — drunk or not — would have had minimal time to see the car and brake.
“Would a typical driver have foreseen a sideways car in the middle of the road at 2 a.m.?” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jim David said to Clark County Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett. “Frankly, judge, we don’t know.”
Simonds instead pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 30 days’ community service and five years’ probation.
He received credit for the 42 days he’s already served in jail, which Bennett acknowledged was “42 times more than a typical DUI offender would have faced.”
“This is just an example of the evils of drunken driving,” Bennett said. “You can get behind the wheel and kill somebody or you can be involved in an accident that was somebody else’s fault and still get punished.”
Bennett ignored David’s request for Simonds to be given a maximum punishment of six months in jail and six months work crew because the case involved a fatality. The judge instead agreed with defense attorney Lou Byrd, who had contended his client shouldn’t face any more time than usual for a DUI, given the vehicular homicide charge was taken off the table.
“I would be abusing my discretion if I ignored the reduction of charges,” Bennett said.
Still, the judge added: “The reason for imposing the community service is obvious: Someone died.”
Simonds was arrested in April 2009 in connection with the June 11, 2006, crash that killed Charles D. Timmel, 46, of Vancouver.
While there was no evidence Simonds was speeding in his Ford Escort, officers drew his blood because he showed signs of intoxication. A blood test later revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, David said.
Further investigation offered more details: Timmel’s Oldsmobile was blocking the roadway and his headlights were turned away from the street, making the vehicle nearly invisible to passing traffic. Simonds also told responding officers he couldn’t see the car until he struck it.
Four years later, Byrd told the judge the case had devolved into personal injury litigation, with attorneys discussing who was at fault. Without putting blame on the victim, the defense attorney said there was insufficient evidence his client was at fault.
“My impression was that there wasn’t a jury in Clark County that could convict Mr. Simonds” of vehicular homicide, Byrd said. “I would have hit that car. Anybody would have hit that car.”
Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or email@example.com.