Driver whose passenger died in fall from convertible pleads guilty

Portland man faces 41 to 54 months in prison

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: January 19, 2012, 6:29 PM

 

Five months after leaving a friend to die in the middle of a highway east of Washougal, Russell Amon on Thursday took responsibility for his actions. It will cost him more than three years in prison.

The Portland man, who was driving when a passenger fell from his moving convertible on Highway 14 last summer pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.

But the decision wasn’t easy. Amon, 29, hesitated when the judge asked him if he was OK giving up his right to a trial.

He asked the judge if he could, instead enter a Newton plea, a type of plea that only admits the state could prove its case but does not admit guilt.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey pointed out that a Newton plea was not part of the plea agreement. If Amon didn’t agree to the terms of the plea, Harvey said he could argue for a sentence above what the attorneys earlier agreed upon. Harvey had told the judge he planned to seek a sentence at the low end of the sentencing range.

“I want you to be sure about what you’re doing,” Clark County Superior Court Judge Daniel Stahnke said to Amon.

After consulting with his defense attorney, Susan Stauffer, for several minutes, the defendant told the judge he was ready to admit guilt.

“OK, let’s just do it,” he was overheard saying to his attorney.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of felony hit-and-run relating to the Aug. 20 fatality near Washougal.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 31. Amon faces a sentence of 41 to 54 months in prison.

Amon was reportedly driving his Mercedes convertible recklessly — other drivers told state troopers that they saw him speeding, cutting off another car, swerving and spinning out, according to court documents.

The fatality occurred east of Washougal, when Amon allegedly accelerated to pass another car. One of his passengers, Jose Gonzalez-Ramirez, 34, of Vancouver, was sitting on the trunk lid of the car and fell out. Amon sped off before returning to see a group of people starting to surround the victim, prosecutors said.

Gonzalez-Ramirez apparently tried to wave to Amon but the car sped off again. Gonzalez-Ramirez died at the scene.

The next day, upon the prompting of a second passenger, Amon turned himself into police.

Amon will remain in the Clark County Jail on a no-bail hold, pending sentencing.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.