Friday, April 29, 2011

Trooper strikes plea bargain in fatal crash

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 5:01 PM

ACCIDENT SCENE: In Manila
  • www.kait8.com
  • ACCIDENT SCENE: In Manila
Arkansas state trooper Andrew Rhew struck a plea bargain this week with Special Prosecutor Will Feland over the death of a motorist killed in a Mississippi County wreck when Rhew was responding to a call in Osceola. Rhew was driving 103 miles an hour, according to the "black box" that records speeds in his cruiser, without siren or blue lights flashing. The warnings are required by law of a police vehicle traveling over the speed limit (45 mph where the accident occurred.)

Rhew entered a no contest plea to a Class A misdemeanor, negligent homicide. Sentencing was suspended for a year, which means no penalty was imposed. He could appear a year from now and, as a first offender, have his record expunged.

The deal was signed Thursday by Judge Cindy Thyer. Rhew did not have to appear before the judge.

Rhew had been charged with felony manslaughter in the death of Vickie Lynn Freemyer, 52, of Blytheville. She was killed when Rhew's car collided with hers on state Highway 77 in Manila in 2009. Freemyer, a school teacher, had stopped at a Sonic en route to visit her father in a hospital. She'd stopped, or perhaps only slowed at the highway intersection and was proceeding at less than 10 miles an hour according to her vehicle's recording device, when she was slammed by Rhew's cruiser. Police reports say he was responding to a report of a man with an outstanding felony warrant at a driver's license center at Osceola, some 25 miles away. Why Rhew had to respond, rather than an Osceola policeman or local sheriff's deputy who would have been closer, is unclear.

Bobby Coleman of Blytheville, who represents Freemyer’s four daughters, said prosecutors informed the family after the order was signed, which Prosecutor Feland disputes. Coleman said the family didn’t approve of the deal. “They are disappointed a jury wasn’t given the opportunity to make a decision,” Coleman said. Feland again disputed that. He said he'd spoken continuously with family members about hoping to achieve a negligent homicide plea from the defendant. He said an adult daughter with whom he'd spoken throughout the process had told him last night she understood the decision, after he'd given her a detailed explanation.

"It was a tough case," Feland said. He said the defense would have produced experts who'd contest the speed Rhew was driving and offer testimony about how Freemyer had contributed to the cause of the wreck, though the law says her negligence, if any, couldn't be used to determine Rhew's guilt or innocence.

Feland said the minute Rhew's attorney, Bill Bristow of Jonesboro, agreed to a plea Thursday morning, about 10 days before trial, he drove to Marion in Crittenden County to get the judge to sign the order and he asked an assistant, H.G. Foster, to immediately inform the family of the decision. Feland said it was "unprecedented" to get a negligent homicide judgment against a state trooper in such a circumstance.

"I thought it was an excellent resolution of this case," said Feland, who continued prosecuting the case as a special prosecutor at his own expense after leaving office in January. "Either side had a risk in going to trial. I felt like we got an acknowledgment this conduct was wrong. I did not think 12 men and women on evidence I had were going to convict him and give him more punishment than what I got."

Civil legal action is likely. Such claims often go before the state Claims Commission.

Rhew has been suspended with pay since former State Police Director Winford Phillips reinstated him under pressure from the State Police Commission following his firing. It will now be up to the new State Police director, JR Howard, to decide if the plea deal, in which Rhew admitted no wrongdoing, is sufficient ground for firing.

Bill Bristow, Rhew's attorney, declined to discuss the specifics other than to say that there were "facts on both sides." To a suggestion from the victim's side that Rhew got light treatment, he said, "All I'm going to say is that it was a reasonable compromise and a fair disposition."

Tags: , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault on Obamacare begins

    Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • Two dead in North Little Rock shooting

    two people were fatally wounded about 9 p.m. Friday in a home in the 1400 block of Division Street, North Little Rock.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • 2nd Amendment meets the 1st in Fayetteville on campus carry

    They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • In defense of Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    An op-ed in today's New York Time by Katha Pollitt says what I've been struggling to say about the reaction to the attack on women's reproductive rights launched by means of the undercover videos made by anti-abortion activists.
    • Aug 5, 2015
  • The inspiring Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton's campaign for president illustrates again the double standard applied to women. Some writers get it. They even find the supposedly unlikable Clinton inspiring.
    • Oct 16, 2016
  • State Police issues statement on Jason Rapert 'threats'

    The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
    • Sep 15, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation