A Charlotte man pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide charges related to a July car crash that left two area teens dead.
During a final pre-trial conference on Thursday, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf and defense attorney Jack Wolfe agreed on a plea for Justin Sparks, 19. Sparks was charged with two charges of homicide by a vehicle while intoxicated and two counts of reckless homicide by a vehicle due to reckless driving.
The charges related to a July 23, 2011, accident in the 1400 block of 400th Avenue in Preston. According to the accident report by the Iowa State Patrol, Sparks ran a stop sign and his vehicle left the road and struck a tree. The vehicle overturned, ejecting all three occupants, none of whom were wearing seat belts. Jed Rogis, 19, of Clinton, and Kristin Hanrahan, 18, of Delmar, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Sparks on Thursday pleaded guilty to two counts of homicide by a vehicle due to reckless driving, which is a class C felony, and to a charge of operating while intoxicated, first offense, which is a serious misdemeanor. Mike Wolf told Judge Charles Pelton that the state is recommending that Sparks is not committed to prison.
“This is the toughest type of case, I think, in the county,” Wolf said.
Mike Wolf added that by the nature of the charges, it is unintended. He has spoken extensively to the victim’s family and said it is apparent that the tragic event that occurred that night was not the outcome anyone expected. He added the fact all three were in the same vehicle also makes a difference. Wolf felt this plea agreement was in the best interest of everyone involved.
Jack Wolfe referenced letters that will be included in the case packet for the sentencing judge to consider. He said the county attorney’s office has received several letters from members of the community, expressing that while they want the matter taken seriously, they felt Sparks should not receive prison time. The matter of sentencing will be decided by a sentencing judge. However, if Mike Wolf’s recommendation for a suspended prison sentence was denied, Sparks would have an opportunity to refuse the plea agreement.
Sparks did not speak to the events that led to the accident. Jack Wolfe told the court that Sparks sustained a head injury in the accident and still has difficulty remembering all of what occurred that night. However, Sparks has reviewed the county’s evidence and agreed the plea agreement is in his best interest.
Besides any probation, Sparks could also face high restitution and damages, which could be as much as $300,000, according to Pelton.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. May 24.