Benedict pleads 'no contest' to vehicular homicide; sentencing Sept. 23

Sheriff's Deputy Felix Menjivar photographs the wreckage of a Volkswagen Passat, which crashed in a field near Cattle Point Lighthouse in March 2007. Jarvis Teasdale of Friday Harbor was killed; the car's owner, Amber Beeston, and alleged driver, Robert Benedict, were injured. Benedict has pleaded no contest to a charge of vehicular homicide.
— image credit: File photo / Richard Walker

A San Juan Island man accused of causing a crash that claimed the life of a friend in March 2007 had recently been ruled competent to stand trial.

But there won't be a trial.

On Sept. 3, Robert Nathan Benedict pleaded no contest in San Juan County Superior Court to one count of vehicular homicide, a Class A felony. Vehicular homicide carries maximum penalties of life in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both.

Benedict, 26, will be sentenced Sept. 23 in Superior Court.

By pleading no contest, known in Washington state as an Alford plea, Benedict does not admit he's guilty but that he would likely be convicted if the case went to trial.

Prosecutors claim Benedict was behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Passat which went off the road at a high rate of speed near Cape San Juan in early March 2007. A passenger, Benedict's friend Jarvis Teasdale, died at the scene. Benedict and Amber Beeston, owner of the car, were seriously injured.

According to court documents, prosecutors will recommend that Benedict serve six months in jail, in addition to three months on work crew and three months on work release, as part of an "exceptional" sentence that falls below the standard range of sentencing of 15-20 months set by the state.

Benedict would pay $750 in fines and fees, as well as restitution to Teasdale's family for burial costs, under the recommended sentence.

According to court records, Teasdale's mother was consulted by prosecutors in reaching an agreement on the recommendation and in bringing the case to a conclusion. Superior Court Judge John O. Linde is not bound, however, to follow the recommended sentence.

Initially, Benedict was charged with vehicular manslaughter, a Class B felony. He pleaded innocent to that charge in May. According to his attorney, Carla Higginson of Friday Harbor, Benedict has no memory of the crash and was not driving Beeston's car at the time of the crash.

Higginson cited Benedict's desire to avoid the "stress of a trial" in prompting his decision to plead no contest to the elevated charge.

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