Charges dropped in Nevada cell phone accident
FALLON, Nev. (AP) ” Charges have been dismissed against a Fallon man accused of driving into and killing a 12-year-old bicyclist while making a cell phone call in August 2006.
Under an agreement accepted Friday by Justice of the Peace Terry Graham, Richard Hutchings will pay $1.3 million to the family of victim of Jeremiah Horne in return for the dismissal of a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge.
The Horne family asked that Hutchings not be prosecuted, the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper reported. The Hornes and Hutchings are members of the same Mormon church.
According to court documents, Hutchings was having trouble making a cell phone call to his ranch manager when his pickup drifted into the bike lane on U.S. Highway 50 near Gummow Drive in Fallon.
When he looked up after dialing the number, police said, he saw the boy on the bicycle about 10 feet in front of his truck. Hutchings told investigators that he slammed on the brakes and didn’t have time to swerve.
Horne was flown to a Reno hospital, where he died three days later.
Prosecutor Eric Levin of the state attorney general’s office urged Graham to reject the agreement, saying dismissing the case would send the wrong message to the community because it involved a death.
Hutchings’ trial had been scheduled to start this past Friday in Churchill County Justice Court.
“The charges are appropriate,” Levin said.
But Hutchings’ lawyer, David Houston, said the settlement was justified because the victim’s family did not want his client prosecuted and Hutchings has a lack of a criminal history.
William Whitehead, who represents the Hornes, said his clients have no vindictiveness over the accident and have forgiven Hutchings.
Graham urged both sides to talk to students about the safety of driving while using cell phones.
Many states have outlawed the use of hand-held cell phones while driving after studies revealed the distraction could be as dangerous as drunken driving.
District Attorney Arthur Mallory sent the case to the attorney general’s office because he knows the Horne and Hutchings families from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Graham, a Wadsworth judge, presided over the case because Justice of the Peace Mike Richards responded to the accident as a sheriff’s deputy.
Hutchings would have faced up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.
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