A 34-year-old Tonganoxie man was sentenced Wednesday to serve one year in jail for repeatedly driving on a suspended license.
Justin Wiles was charged after he was involved in a 2009 fatality accident on U.S. Highway 24-40.
Leavenworth County District Judge Gunnar Sundby sentenced Wiles for the misdemeanor charge and denied a request from prosecutors that would have essentially given Wiles two more years in jail.
Wiles was charged after he was involved in a June 16, 2009, accident that killed Shelli K. Stimach. The crash occurred south of Leavenworth County Road 1 on the highway. Initially the Kansas Highway Patrol reported Wiles, who was also injured, drove his northbound 1998 Chevrolet Lumina left of the center line and struck Stimach’s southbound 2003 Nissan Altima head on.
So prosecutors charged Wiles with vehicular homicide, also a misdemeanor. But further investigation showed it’s possible that Stimach’s vehicle had crossed the center line, not Wiles’. Because prosecutors didn’t believe they had a strong enough case against Wiles, the vehicular homicide charge was dismissed earlier this year.
Wiles’ attorney, Greg Robinson, said Wednesday the defense was thankful for that.
“It’s a tragedy. The woman has died. It’s not like my client takes this lightly,” Robinson said. “But this proves my client did not do it. And had (prosecutors) got that information before, then we wouldn’t have been here. We’ve have been stuck only with the habitual violator charge.”
Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said there was conflicting evidence about the cause of the crash, which made it difficult to prosecute the vehicular homicide charge. Robinson said he believed troopers mistakenly mislabeled the two sets of skid marks in an accident diagram, which caused confusion.
Thompson also said Assistant County Attorney Rae Anderson asked the judge to give Wiles a more severe sentence on the habitual violator charge, to which Wiles pleaded no contest last week.
Last month, Wiles pleaded to the same charge for a separate incident and received a one-year jail sentence. During Wednesday’s sentencing, Sundby rejected a request from prosecutors that Wiles serve his new one-year sentence consecutive to the old one. He likely will get out of jail next summer, Thompson said.
“We vehemently argued to have the sentence run consecutively to his other habitual violations of driving,” Thompson said. “This is a person who should not be able to drive.”