A Michigan man was not reckless when he caused a crash in which his best friend was killed and so he is not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Instead, Andrew Roberts, 19, of Saline was found to be negligent when he caused the Oct. 14, 2011, crash that killed 18-year-old Erik Parks, also of Saline, and thus he is guilty of misdemeanor vehicular homicide.
Judge Dean Mandros set a Jan. 3 sentencing date; Mr. Roberts faces up to six months in jail.
“The defendant indicated he had fallen asleep only to waken seconds, if not milliseconds before the accident,” the judge said before ruling that the state failed to prove Mr. Roberts was reckless but did prove negligence.
Attorney Lorin Zaner said he was pleased with the verdict. He noted that although his client was exonerated of a felony, he was not free from the pain of responsibility in his best friend’s death.
Mr. Roberts declined through his attorney to comment on the verdict.
“There was nothing to show recklessness,” Mr. Zaner said after the verdict. “This was a sad accident. … He was negligent. [Negligence] was, in my opinion, where I thought the case should have started.”
Prior to hearing closing arguments, Judge Mandros dismissed one of two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
At the request of the defense, the judge dismissed the second-degree felony. He determined that there was insufficient evidence presented to prove that marijuana metabolites found in Mr. Roberts’ system at the time of the crash impaired his driving.
The verdict came after a one-day trial to Judge Mandros in which six witnesses testified.
Photos were shown of the pickup that Mr. Roberts was driving at about 3 a.m. on State Rt. 2 east of Howard Road, when he failed to negotiate a curve. After careening into a guardrail, the pickup split — the side where Mr. Parks was seated was sheared off, leaving a gaping hole in the metal where the door should have been.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office, said that the office respected the judge’s decision.
“We presented the evidence in the case, ultimately it’s up to the trier of fact to reach a conclusion based on the evidence and that’s what the court did,” he said.
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