Crime

Witness: Boise hit-and-run driver said he heard ‘loud boom’

The eight women and five men listening to prosecutors’ case against a Garden City man aren’t being asked to weigh whether he did anything wrong in striking and killing a bicyclist on a dark and rainy night.

Instead, jurors will decide whether Gavin Haley, 31, knew or should have known that he had hit Victor Haskell, 53, of Boise, in the early morning of Sept. 27, 2013, on State Street — and whether he fulfilled his legal obligation to summon help and notify police.

A trial began Tuesday in 4th District Court and is expected to end next week.

Andrea Thomas, a former girlfriend of Haley’s, testified Thursday that she spoke to him by phone just after Haskell was struck. Haley told her that he was driving west on State and “all of a sudden he heard a loud boom.”

Thomas said Haley told her he stopped but couldn’t find anything. She said she could hear the sound of rain in the background and believed Haley was continuing to search as he spoke.

“He was shaken up,” Thomas said. “He had no idea what he had hit.”

A passer-by found Haskell’s body eight hours later in a small hole caused by sidewalk construction.

Both sides believe that Haskell rode his bicycle from the sidewalk onto the pavement on State near 30th Street to avoid the construction. The point of impact was 41 feet before the construction zone. A series of plastic orange barrels in the street marked the zone.

The prosecution contends that Haley’s Land Rover struck Haskell’s bicycle from behind. The defense disputes that.

Dave Jakovac, a forensic engineer and president of FDJ Engineering in Boise, testified that he believes the front of Haskell’s bicycle was pointed slightly left as the front right bumper of Haley’s SUV struck the left side of Haskell’s rear wheel.

“So you believe it was Victor Haskell’s fault?” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bandy asked.

“I’m not saying that,” Jakovac said.

Prior testimony indicated that Haley, a chef at a Boise restaurant, had gotten off work about 10 p.m. He went to a Downtown bar and drank three beers before leaving at about 11:50 p.m.

Haskell, meanwhile, had finished his shift at a different restaurant and was headed home.

Boise police issued several bulletins seeking information after determining that a dark-colored SUV had struck the bicyclist. Police later said the vehicle was a black Land Rover with a damaged right headlight.

Haley turned himself in to police the night after the collision. Defense attorney Jon Cox told the jury in his opening statement that his client had not tried to hide his involvement.

“He did not hide the car, wash the car or take any action to repair it,” Cox said. The Land Rover was sitting in his driveway when police went to his house, he said.

Haley pleaded guilty last summer to felony leaving the scene of an accident. He withdrew his plea after prosecutors and defense lawyers learned from a story in the Idaho Statesman that he had previously been convicted of felony burglary in a 2004 case in Minidoka County.

The lawyers had been unaware of the conviction. District Judge Thomas Neville said he was no longer willing to grant Haley a withheld judgment, which had been part of the plea agreement.

A withheld judgment allows a judge to place a person on probation and wipe the conviction upon successful completion of probation. Although the case still appears in online state court records, the person can say they were not convicted of that crime.

After Bandy rested the prosecution’s case Thursday, Cox asked Senior Judge Renae Hoff to dismiss. “The state has done nothing to show (Haley) knew or should have known he caused a fatality,” Cox said.

Hoff denied the motion. She said the prosecution had presented adequate evidence for the jury to decide whether Haley had a legal obligation to remain at the scene and report it.

If convicted, Haley could face up to five years in prison.

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