Branson statement ( .PDF )
A 22-year-old Kansas University student was charged today with driving under the influence for his role in an Aug. 26 traffic accident in which a fellow KU student lost both his legs.
According to a news release issued by Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson's office, Julian M. Kuszmaul, 22, is charged with DUI, second offense. Kuszmaul also was charged with drug possession and following a vehicle too closely.
Test results showed Kuszmaul's blood-alcohol was 0.25 — three times the legal limit of 0.08 — when his Ford Explorer struck and pinned 18-year-old Colby Liston between Kuszmaul's vehicle and another. The vehicle Liston was standing behind was illegally parked in a driving lane of the 1600 block of Tennessee Street.
An officer responding to the 1:30 a.m. accident “immediately observed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Kuszmaul’s mouth when he spoke,” and “also observed a strong odor of burnt marijuana from Kuszmaul’s clothing and vehicle,” according to a police report. Though Kuszmaul told officers he slammed on the brakes as he approached the other car, police said they found no skid marks.
Following the accident, both of Liston's legs were amputated above the knee.
The blood alcohol test results for the driver of the vehicle that Liston was standing behind — Dustin A. Erickson, 21, Derby — registered at 0.02, below Kansas' legal limit of 0.08.
Police reports noted that Liston had consumed alcohol prior to the accident, but police did not administer a blood test to determine Liston's blood-alcohol level, said Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley.
According to the news release, Branson's office "received calls and emails regarding why more serious charges were not filed."
Matthew Liston, Colby's father, said he was disappointed an additional battery charge was not added.
"I think that the Douglas County D.A. has let me down and he's let Colby down," he said. "I don't think that justice will be served in this case."
According to the news release, additional charges were not filed because of a Kansas Supreme Court decision that says that "additional evidence, beyond evidence that an accused was driving under the influence of alcohol, is necessary to create a probable cause for reckless aggravated battery charges. Simply driving under the influence of alcohol does not, standing alone, amount to reckless behavior."
"In this case, there is no evidence of additional reckless behavior that would satisfy the Supreme Court's decision," the news release said. "The Douglas County D.A.'s Office disagrees with the Supreme Court's interpretation; however, it is bound to follow it."
Kuszmaul could face up to a year in jail on the misdemeanor DUI charge.
Branson's office, along with other advocates, are working on legislation that would add driving under the influence to current laws on battery charges, the release said.