Monday, August 16, 2010

Iowa County district attorney stands by decision not to issue citation in Belonger's death

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Held reported today that Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson written a letter to explain why no citation was issued in the July 11, 2009, killing of Allen Belonger - but it doesn't clarify much. Belonger was fatally struck by a passenger truck when the driver made a sudden left turn, according to a state trooper's report.

Nelson wrote:
I would support a decision not to issue a citation in this or any other matter where the incident occurred and all appreciable facts were known over a year before.
Nelson made the statement in a letter to the Spring City Spinners (Belonger's cycling club), Belonger's widow and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. The group had written a letter to Nelson on July 27, 2010, requesting an explanation for why no action had been taken in the year since Belonger's death.

Nelson's above statement is problematic because the state trooper's report was not submitted until October 2009 and not released to the public until July of this year. It seems, then, incorrect to conclude that all appreciable facts were known more than a year ago.

Nelson also stated:
“Could I after declining criminal prosecution and having been made aware a citation had not been issued at the scene recommend to the Sheriff’s Department that they issue a citation? Certainly. I expect the Sheriff’s Department would have done so upon my request. I did not do so.

“However, I did not do so out of an affirmative decision not to issue because it may or may not have been warranted. As I stated before, my focus was to review possible criminal charges.”

It's difficult to figure out why Nelson thinks charges "may or may not have been warranted," given that the state trooper's report clearly states that the truck driver "failed to yield to the oncoming vehicle. This was a significant factor in this crash."

The report also stated:
The timing of the crash sequence demonstrated that Belonger was riding defensively and was watching the slowing truck as it approached the driveway. Belonger did not have any obvious perception delay to the hazard. He was presented with a nearly impossible hazard to avoid. The manner in which Belonger was operating his bicycle was not a factor in this crash.
The Spring City Spinners are currently considering their next step.

See last week's blog entry for more background on this case.

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