Chesterton Tribune

Teen pleads guilty in fatal accident

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The 17-year-old Valparaiso boy who was charged as an adult after police said that he drove a car into a semi while fleeing a detective in August 2007—an accident in which one of his passengers died—has entered a plea agreement which could result in a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Aaron Lee Phelps has pleaded guilty to one count of resisting law enforcement by use of a motor vehicle and causing the death of another person, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years in prison, Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune on Wednesday; and one count of resisting law enforcement by use of a motor vehicle and causing serious bodily injury to another person, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years in prison.

A person convicted of both counts would normally be eligible for a maximum term of 28 years. But the so-called plea-and-argue agreement caps Phelps’ sentence at no more than 20 years and floors it at no less than six years, Bennett said. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 10 before Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper

In exchange for Phelps’ plea, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office dropped four other charges against him: reckless homicide, a Class C felony; one other count of resisting law enforcement, a Class C felony; possession of marijuana/hashish, a Class D felony; and obstructing an emergency medical person, a Class B misdemeanor.

According to the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, at 2:15 Aug. 8 a PCSP detective executed a traffic stop on Phelps on Vale Park Road. As the detective was walking toward Phelps’ vehicle, police said, Phelps rapidly accelerated, traveling northbound on Silhavy Road and then eastbound on Vale Park Drive at a high rate of speed. At the intersection of Ind. 49, police said, Phelps ran a red light and collided with the side of a semi-tractor trailer southbound on Ind. 49, his car becoming wedged between the tractor’s rear tires and the front of the box trailer.

The detective, another officer, and EMS personnel attempted to remove Phelps and the three other occupants of the car, police said, at which point Phelps began fighting with rescue workers, injuring one of the officers. Eventually Phelps and two of the passengers were removed but one of them, Brandie Broussard, 16, of Metarie, La., was trapped in the back seat behind the driver. Broussard was transported to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus as soon as she was extricated but she later died there.

Circuit Court Magistrate Edward Nemeth later granted the petition of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to waive Phelps from juvenile jurisdiction into adult court, after noting that on three previous occasions Phelps had been adjudicated in juvenile court, that he continued to re-offend while on formal probation, and that at the time of the accident he was facing four pending charges for offenses which allegedly occurred while on probation, including two counts of burglary.

“The acts (Phelps) is alleged to have committed are extremely serious,” Nemeth stated in his ruling. “To have him remain in the juvenile justice system when he has previously demonstrated his unwillingness or inability to comply with the juvenile court and probation rules would be contrary to the best interests of safety and welfare of the community.”


Posted 1/24/2008