Some Charges Dismisses in Wash. Crash
ELIZABETH M. GILLESPIE
Jan. 31, 2003
AUBURN, Wash. (AP) _ A judge ruled Thursday that a woman who videotaped the moments before a drunk-driving crash that killed everyone in the car except her should not be prosecuted for her alleged role in the accident.
Judge Patrick Burns dismissed charges of being an accomplice to reckless driving and accomplice to drunken driving against Teresa Hedlund, 30. But she is still charged with two misdemeanors, furnishing alcohol to a minor and giving tobacco to a minor.
Prosecutors alleged Hedlund encouraged 22-year-old Thomas Stewart to drive drunk and recklessly, in part by taping the July 2001 ride in which he and five others died. At one point in the video, Stewart says, ``Watch me driving. You gotta record this (expletive)!''
The video also includes footage from a party Hedlund hosted for the people in the car the day of the crash. On the tape, Stewart says he's ``liquored up'' and Hedlund's 4-year-old daughter has a cigarette dangling from her mouth.
The only passenger who hadn't been drinking, 18-year-old Jayme Vomenici, has a panicked look on her face as she shouts an obscenity-laced order for Stewart to slow down or stop. The video ends an estimated two seconds before the crash.
The judge agreed Thursday with Hedlund's attorney, Tom Campbell, who argued for dismissal of the accomplice charges because state law prevents crime victims from being charged as accomplices of that same crime.
Burns said Hedlund's behavior had been ``abhorrent'' but added, ``I think being in an automobile and having your car wrapped around a pillar and spending months in rehabilitation constitutes being a victim.''
Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery disagreed with the judge's reasoning, saying Hedlund could have prevented the crash, but videotaped it instead.
Burns agreed to have his ruling reviewed by another judge. He recessed the trial until Monday.
Hedlund and Stewart were among seven people crammed into a two-door Ford Escort that reached about 81 mph moments before plowing into a concrete pillar.
Six died and Hedlund, of Auburn, was critically injured. The victims included Tim Stewart, who was Hedlund's fiance and the driver's twin brother.
Toxicology results revealed Thomas Stewart's blood-alcohol content was at least 0.15 percent, nearly twice the state limit.
Hedlund, who shot the video while kneeling in the passenger seat, told investigators she doesn't remember the crash and recalls little about what happened that day.
She broke into tears when Burns dismissed the charges. Outside the courtroom, she said, ``I am a victim. I have suffered so much. ``I lost the man I love'' and some of her closest friends.
``To have the city tell me I encouraged their deaths has been so hard.''
The charges remaining, like those that were dismissed, carry a maximum sentence of a year in jail.