No Felony Charges Against Driver Who Struck and Killed Teenager on Mullan Road [AUDIO]
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, in a Thursday afternoon news conference, announced there would be no felony offense his office can prosecute in the matter where Chance Geery, 18, was struck and killed while walking with his girlfriend on the sidewalk on Mullan Road on April 1.
Van Valkenburg identified the driver as Yoon Hee Cho, 38, a citizen of South Korea, who has been working as an assistant professor in the Center for Environmental Sciences at The University of Montana.
Van Valkenburg explained why no felony offense could be charged in the case.
"Miss Cho submitted to a blood test which showed she had no alcohol or drugs in her system, other than a small amount of caffeine," Van Valkenburg began. "Due to the investigation by the city police and the Montana Highway Patrol, we believe that she was driving within the speed limit of 45 miles per hour. She does not appear to have been talking on a cellphone, eating food or something of that nature that would be considered gross negligence on her part."
The only felony charge that might have applied in the case would have been negligent vehicular homicide, but there was insufficient evidence that such a charge could have been sustained.
"I do believe that Miss Cho should be prosecuted for a misdemeanor offense called Careless Driving Resulting in Death," Van Valkenburg continued. "It is punishable by a sentence of up to six months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Because the incident occurred within the city limits of Missoula, it is our standard practice to refer the case to the City Attorney's office for prosecution."
Van Valkenburg met with the Geery family and Chance's girlfriend Gabrielle Rosier on Wednesday and delivered the news to them about the charges.
"One of the most difficult jobs that a county attorney has is to tell the parents or loved ones of someone who has died in some tragic fashion, that there is no way to prosecute somebody in a way that they believe is just under the circumstances," Van Valkenburg said. "It was a difficult and trying session, but I believe in the end that they understood that the burden of proof in this case was too difficult to meet with respect in prosecuting Miss Cho for negligent homicide."
Contacted Thursday afternoon, Missoula City Attorney James Nugent said one of his deputies would be handling the case, but because the city police detective who was investigating, Katie Peterson, had Friday off, no official charges would be filed until next week.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg