SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A man who was reaching for his cell phone when he ran a red light and caused a fatal accident has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Joseph Cory Erickson, 26, of South Jordan, pleaded guilty to one count of class A misdemeanor negligent homicide -- was sentenced Friday to 90 days in jail. As a condition of 36 months' probation, Erickson may not own or possess a cell phone.
The conviction is believed to be the first negligent homicide case in Utah attributed to cell phone use -- which some state lawmakers have sought to ban while driving.
The conviction is believed to be the first negligent homicide case in Utah attributed to cell phone use. Some state lawmakers have sought to ban using cell phones while driving.
Erickson told Murray police he was traveling five to 10 mph above the 40-mph speed limit when he "reached up to turn off his cell phone as it rang," according to court documents.
Erickson said he saw oncoming cars turning left as he approached the intersection, but did not know what color the light was.
Another southbound driver told police she had been stopped at the red light "quite a while" when Erickson's pickup truck drove past her and hit a BMW.
Police found no skid marks indicating Erickson had tried to stop.
Prosecutor Roger Blaylock told the judge, "It wasn't just the cell phone. He (Erickson) was not paying attention to what was going on around him at all."
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg agreed, telling the defendant, "You were clearly clueless."
Along with jail and probation, Lindberg ordered Erickson to pay $8,454 in restitution, take a defensive-driving course and perform 150 hours of community service by speaking to high school students, driver education classes and others about the dangers of driving with a cell phone.
Killed in the July 12 crash was Robert Harman Anderson, 32, a Murray dentist.
The victim's son, Matthew Anderson, said his family was not looking for vengeance.
"But we miss our father very much," he told the judge, "and would like that taken into consideration."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)