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Family believes misdemeanor charges aren't enough in son's death

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 9:44am


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HARRISVILLE, Weber County — The family of a man killed in an auto-pedestrian accident believes the driver is getting off too easy.

“We had so many plans for little Devereaux,” Mike Hallett said of his deceased son, as he stood next to the intersection where the collision took place. “All of those have been cut short.”

On July 8, Harrisville police said Devereaux Hallett, 18, was on his bicycle, and was heading west across Wall Avenue at North Street in a crosswalk when a driver ran a red light and struck him.

“He just claims something hit his windshield, so he hit the brakes,” Mike Hallett recounted.

Hallett said his son was propelled 78 feet by the impact and was severely injured. He ultimately died in the hospital from his injuries.

The driver, Jeff Hanes, 38, was subsequently charged with use of a handheld device to text or email while operating a vehicle, a class B misdemeanor, and a traffic control signal violation, a class C misdemeanor, for allegedly running the red light.

The texting-related charge can be raised to a felony in the case of a death, but prosecutors elected not to do that in this case.

“It’s right down to the wire as far as the records clearly indicate he was texting and driving when the accident occurred,” Hallett asserted.

The prosecutor who reviewed the case issued a statement Friday.

“We reviewed the case thoroughly,” deputy Weber County attorney Gary Heward wrote. “We talked to experts. We do not have sufficient evidence to prove the more serious charge.”

Kent Morgan, a defense attorney who worked nearly 30 years as a prosecutor at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office, said it’s difficult to prove texting is a direct cause in an accident.

“If somebody’s texting while driving and they don’t hit anybody and then while they’re driving normally and not texting they then hit somebody, the texting seems to have no proximate relationship to the cause of death,” he said.

Regardless of the legal explanations they’ve been given, Hallett said he continues to seek new legal avenues and greater justice for his son’s death.

“Maybe a fresh set of eyes will see that there is clear criminality involved with this particular texting and driving death,” Hallett said.

Hallett said he had approached the Utah Attorney General’s Office about the case, but he was referred back to the Weber County attorney and the city attorney of Harrisville.

Hallett said he believes his son’s case also potentially highlights a loophole in state law, and was hoping perhaps a lawmaker could address it.

Hanes has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges he faces. Attempts to reach Hanes and his attorney were not successful Friday.

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