ST. GEORGE — A St. George man who was facing two charges of automobile homicide after an elderly husband and wife died from injuries allegedly sustained when they were struck by his car was sentenced Thursday.
Austin Betts, 25, appeared in 5th District Court for what was scheduled as a preliminary waiver hearing on two felony counts of automobile homicide involving the use of a handheld wireless communication device while driving, but instead he pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of using a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the state agreed to drop one of the third-degree felony charges and reduce the remaining charge to a misdemeanor charge of using a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle.
The state did not object to the defendant pleading no contest, whereby the defendant neither disputes nor admits to doing the crime, which District Judge John J. Walton approved during Thursday’s hearing.
The plea stems from an incident in December 2016 when a couple was struck by a vehicle on 700 South while crossing the street, heading toward the Dixie State University Cox Performing Arts Center. According to police, Betts struck the pair when he took his eyes off the road to look down at his phone.