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San Juan man gets 1 month in jail for car crash that killed best friend

Robert Benedict will serve one month in jail, eight months on house arrest and one year on probation for his role in the car crash that cost the life of his best friend.

Benedict, 26, was sentenced today by Superior Court Judge John O. Linde. Benedict has up to 30 days to report to Island County Jail in Coupeville. While on house arrest, he will be allowed to go to work. He is a driver for Harbor Rental & Saw Shop.

Prosecutors claim Benedict was behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Passat that went off the road at a high rate of speed near Cattle Point Estates 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.

Prosecutors charged Benedict with vehicular homicide. They said the location of bruises caused by his seatbelt indicate Benedict was in the driver's seat. They also cited the testimony of a witness who said she saw Benedict get into the driver's seat, and Beeston into the front passenger seat, of the car about 15 minutes before the crash.

Prosecutors said the crash was caused by vehicle speed; blood tests revealed Benedict and Teasdale had not been drinking.

Defense attorney Carla Higginson of Friday Harbor claimed Benedict was not the driver. She said he has no memory of the crash and could not assist in his defense, although Linde earlier ruled Benedict competent to stand trial.

Higginson cited Benedict's desire to avoid the "stress of a trial" in prompting his decision to plead no contest to vehicular homicide Sept. 2.

Prosecutors recommended 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.

According to court records, Teasdale's mother, Janelle, was consulted by prosecutors and agreed with the recommended sentence. She also spoke at the sentencing today.

A more detailed story will be filed later today.

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