Gales Creek car crash trial ends in conviction
A jury found a Hillsboro man who crashed his vehicle into Gales Creek off Highway 6 in February guilty on all but one charge.
The driver, Jeremiah Libbee, was found guilty of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver to injured persons, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and driving with a suspended or revoked license. The jury did not find Libbee guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicants.
Prosecutors say Libbee was traveling 90 mph in a 55 mph zone on Feb. 15 when he attracted the attention of police in North Plains. Libbee refused to pull over for the officer, leading police on a pursuit across the area onto Highway 6.
As Libbee, who also had a passenger in his car, sped down Highway 6 near the junction with Gales Creek Road, a sheriff's deputy set down a type of spike strip known as a "Stop Stick" in an attempt to stop him, prosecutors said. The car was traveling out of control when it hit the spikes, crashed down a 20-foot embankment, struck a tree and landed in Gales Creek.
While Libbee was able to escape the vehicle, his passenger was trapped for nearly two hours as Forest Grove Fire & Rescue and other emergency responders worked to free her, authorities said.
Prosecutors proved to the jury Libbee failed to provide adequate and timely help to his passenger after the crash. Under Oregon law, drivers are required to provide reasonable assistance to injured passengers and help police if needed.
Libbee's defense attorney, Brian Decker, said his client informed responders of his passenger's state as soon as he was able, pushing back against the allegations of extreme recklessness. Decker said the deputy's use of a "Stop Stick" on the curved road, near the embankment, was improper. Libbee's recklessness is overshadowed by any potentially improper actions taken by police, he argued.
The jury disagreed. While it acquitted Libbee of the DUII charge, it convicted him on all six felony counts, as well as the misdemeanors of reckless driving and driving while suspended.
Libbee's sentencing will take place at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Aug. 13, at the Washington County Courthouse, 145 N.E. Second Ave., Hillsboro. The maximum prison sentence he could receive under Oregon law is 52 years.
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