When Gavin Haley goes to trial for a second time for allegedly hitting bicyclist Victor Haskell with his car and leaving the scene, the Boise man will no longer face a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Last week, the prosecutor in the case filed an amended motion charging Haley, 32, with vehicular manslaughter, a misdemeanor.
If convicted, Haley would face up to one year in the Ada County Jail. Conviction for leaving the scene of a fatal accident carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Boise attorney Jon Cox, who represents Haley, said he did not realize Scott Bandy, the deputy Ada County prosecutor handling the case, planned to lower the charge.
“I was surprised they went to vehicular manslaughter,” Cox said. “It’s better to face a misdemeanor than a felony.”
Bandy said his office elected to move forward with the misdemeanor charge after a jury was unable in June to come to a unanimous decision to either acquit or convict Haskell.
Cox said it was his understanding that the jury voted 10-2 to acquit, and he said Bandy would face a tough case trying him again on the felony.
Under the vehicular manslaughter section that Haley is charged with, the prosecution accuses him of an unlawful act that does not involve gross negligence and does not rise to a felony. Haskell, 53, was riding his bicycle home to Garden City after getting off work as a dishwasher at a Boise restaurant when he was struck on State Street at 30th Street in the early morning of Sept. 27, 2013.
At trial, Bandy contended Haley, now 31, knew he struck something but did not investigate to see if he struck a person and did not notify police. The defense said Haley stopped his vehicle and looked around but could not see anything in the dark and rainy conditions.
After a mistrial was declared, Cox said he believed the jury had a hard time deciding whether his client was guilty when construction workers, a police officer patrolling in the area and other passersby did not notice Haskell’s body until the next morning in the daylight.
Authorities believe Haskell was riding on the sidewalk but went into the street as he approached a construction zone where the sidewalk was blocked. He was struck 41 feet before the construction zone, which was marked by a series of plastic orange barrels.
The prosecution contended Haskell was struck directly from behind. The defense claimed Haskell’s bicycle was pointed slightly left when it was struck, suggesting Haskell was riding into the path of Haley’s SUV.
Haley, a chef at a Boise restaurant, had finished work and gone to a bar, where he drank three beers, before he drove home.
Haskell’s body was found eight hours later, several feet from the road in a small hole caused by the sidewalk construction.
Haley turned himself in the next day, after police issued bulletins saying they were looking for the driver of a dark Land Rover SUV.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 22 in Ada County Magistrate Court. A trial date has not yet been set.