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Widows seek plea reversal for reckless driver

Widows seek plea reversal for reckless driver

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The widows of two men killed in an auto accident want the Utah Supreme Court to throw out a plea deal cut between prosecutors and the reckless driver behind the wheel.

Peggy and Patricia Hay say they were never informed of the deal and that the prosecutor lied by telling a judge the women endorsed pleas in abeyance for Brandon R. Lane.

The deal would ultimately mean that Lane could have two counts of negligent homicide wiped off his record.

Brothers John and Dan Hay were headed to Colorado in 2005 when Lane hit their Jeep head-on as he tried to pass a semitrailer on Highway 40.

Karen Allen, then a Duchesne County attorney, told the families Lane would plead guilty to one count of negligent homicide and a second count would be held in abeyance. But that's not what she told an 8th District Court judge, an attorney for the widows said.

The case was argued last week before the Utah Supreme Court. If the court rules in favor of the Hays, it would be the first-ever reversal of a binding plea agreement.

Heidi Nestel, the attorney who represents the Hays, told justices the deal "was illegal essentially" because as victims, the widows' right to be informed of the plea was violated.

Utah Assistant Attorney General Christopher Ballard said victims can't petition to overturn a plea deal because they are not considered parties in a criminal case.

However, Ballard said, prosecutors could ask that the agreement be tossed based on the alleged lie. He asked justices to return the case to its pre-plea agreement state.

"A judgment based on a fraud should not be upheld," Ballard said.

Allen has denied misleading the Hays or the judge.

Lane was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service, take an eight-hour driving course and pay $1,500 in restitution. The Hays say the punishment was inadequate.

Lane's attorney, Todd Mecham, said it would be unfair to reopen the case. He said Lane met the conditions of the plea and the case has been dismissed.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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