Lopez teen driver arraigned on vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, reckless endangerment charges; trial begins Nov. 2
September 10, 2009 · 4:52 PM
A 15-year-old Lopez Island boy accused of causing a high-speed collision in which a Canadian man was killed while jogging on Lopez Sound Road — and two others were seriously injured — in late July, pleaded innocent today to six separate criminal offenses, including vehicular homicide.
The boy was released on a $10,000 bail/bond pending trial and under court orders to attend school, have law-abiding behavior, not get behind the wheel of any motorized vehicle, and to abide by daily curfew of 4 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
Judge John Linde, who, in addition to his duties as Superior Court judge presides over juvenile court, noted the gravity of the injuries, including a fatality, that resulted from the collision in imposing the conditions of release sought by prosecutors.
Clad in a powder-blue long-sleeve dress shirt and beige slacks, the 15-year-old, flanked by his parents and attorney, gave clear but brief responses as pleading innocent to each of the six criminal offenses at an arraignment spanning roughly 45 minutes.
He will be tried on one count of vehicular homicide, a Class A felony; two counts of vehicular assault, a Class B felony; and three counts of reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.
Trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 2 in San Juan County Juvenile Court.
According to court documents, prosecutors intend to seek penalties beyond the standard range of sentencing set by the state if the boy is convicted of any or all charges. The standard range for the most serious of the six offenses, vehicular homicide, is 15-36 weeks in juvenile detention. The standard range of sentence for vehicular assault is up to 30 days in juvenile detention, up to 150 hours of community restitution, up to 12 months of probation and a fine of up to $150.
Defense attorney Mark Kaiman said before the hearing that the boy is "remorseful."
"This is a young boy — and he is a young boy, he's very much a kid — who's a leader at his school, a leader in athletics, he's good with academics," Kaiman said.
"His teachers support him, people in the community support him. This was a tragedy, not just for the man who was killed and not just for the child who was injured, but for him too. He's incredibly remorseful for this. He realizes his life has taken a turn, and he's incredibly remorseful about it and trying to get through it day by day. That's all he can do at this point."
Paul John Jaholkowsky, 26, of Abbotsford, B.C. was jogging southbound on the road about 2:30 p.m. when, according to authorities, he was struck head-on by a 1974 Chevy Nova driven by the 15-year-old Lopez boy, who was driving north at what is believed to be a high rate of speed.
Sheriff Bill Cumming said the car is believed to have been traveling about 70 mph when it struck Jaholkowsky; authorities believe Jaholkowsky died instantly and he was declared dead at the scene.
The driver had a 17-year-old friend in the front passenger seat. Neither teen was wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision, Cumming said.
Jaholkowsky had been visiting the island with a friend who, Cumming said, identified Jaholkowsky following the collision.
Moments before Jaholkowsky was struck, the came came up over a slight rise in the road and clipped a 7-year-old girl who was bicycling with her family, authorities said. She was flown to Harborview Medical Center; she lost part of a finger, Cumming said. The car then struck Jaholkowsky.
The driver lost control of the car, which slammed twice into an embankment before coming to a stop.
The 17-year-old passenger was taken to Harborview Medical Center; his head had struck the windshield and he was thrown from the vehicle when the sedan slammed into the embankment.
The 15-year-old driver was released to his parents after the collision.
Cumming said even though the 15-year-old boy had a learner’s permit, state law still prohibits him from driving solely with a chaperone 17 years of age. The car belongs to the 15-year-old's parents.
Neither alcohol or drugs appear to have played a role in the collision; Cumming said vehicle speed and inexperience are likely to blame.
Kaiman said the boy and his family wanted to contact the families of Jaholkowsky and the girl but Kaiman advised against it, saying the families needed time to grieve. "It's something we anticipate. How we go about that, that will come in time."