Court dismisses vehicular homicide case

By Nick Walton -

All charges against a West Liberty man charged in a vehicular homicide case were dismissed during a hearing on Monday.

The dismissal of charges against Matthew G. King, 22, came after a joint motion was filed Friday by the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office and King’s attorney, James W. Skogstrom.

A Champaign County grand jury indicted King in April on seven counts, including two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide stemming from a June 14, 2015, crash that resulted in the death of Mackenzee R. Hartley and injury of Mayci Powell.

As part of the joint motion, the parties sought to withdraw all pending motions, for the indictment to be dismissed and for King to be ordered to pay costs in the matter.

“Counsel for the state and defendant have determined that the interests of justice require that the within action should be dismissed without prejudice,” the joint motion states. “In order to accomplish this result, defendant hereby moves to withdraw all his pending motions and the state hereby moves to dismiss the indictment without prejudice.”

Monday’s hearing was scheduled to be on exhibit admissibility prior to multiple motions being filed in the case.

On July 12, the state filed a motion for leave to file a response to the defense’s motion in limine that was filed on June 24. The court granted the motion for leave last Thursday and gave the state until Monday to file a response.

On the same date, a motion to dismiss was filed by the defense alleging that the actions of certain law enforcement personnel and another individual engaged in governmental misconduct to deprive King of his rights to due process and equal protection of the law. In the motion’s memorandum, Skogstrom references a large volume of discovery defense counsel was provided on July 13.

Among the new material is a July 12 statement from a witness who may have been the first individual on the scene following the crash.

In the recent statement, Skogstrom states the witness was interviewed by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and attorney Stacey Pavlatos. Skogstrom contended that from the notes prepared by the sheriff’s office Pavlatos interrogated the witness. Skogstrom adds Pavlatos represents the Hartley family in pursuit of wrongful death claims.

“It is clear from (Capt. Dave Rapp’s) narrative that counsel for the Hartley family encouraged the decedent’s mother to talk to (the witness) to see if he would provide additional information,” Skogstrom states. “The result of the interview is that over a year after the accident, following some careful leading of the witness, by counsel for the decedent’s family, the witness now states that he recalls the defendant uttering a critically important statement to a first responder. Such a dramatic recollection at this late date is remarkable indeed.”

Skogstrom also contends the statement of another critical witness was in support of King and the version of events asserted by King until law enforcement shared “one piece of evidence with the witness in an effort to get him to modify his previous statement.” Skogstrom noted this witness was represented by Pavlatos at the time, who was present and actively participated in the interview.

“As a result of overzealousness on the part of certain law enforcement officials, the investigation in this matter has been tainted beyond repair,” Skogstrom states. “Certain aspects of the investigation constitute such outrageous governmental conduct that it is no longer possible for this defendant to receive a fair trial. As a result, the defendant respectfully requests that the court dismiss the within action.”

As a result of the case dismissal, all previous conditions of bond for King were terminated.

By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.