Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

Judge rejects plea deal in Durango hit-and-run case

Agreement sought to give driver up to 90 days in jail after leaving scene of crash

A district court judge on Wednesday rejected a plea agreement that would have sentenced a 24-year-old woman to a maximum of 90 days in jail for a hit-and-run crash that nearly killed a Durango motorcyclist.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Anthony Baca said the plea agreement did not serve justice for the victim, Jeanette Wages, who was left with an amputated left leg as a result of the crash.

Baca said prison time – not 90 days in county jail – seemed more appropriate for Brittany Dee, who allegedly fled the scene after hitting Wages.

The crash occurred July 23 in the 200 block of East Eighth Avenue, near the old Macho’s location in Durango. Dee was allegedly driving a Ford F-150 pickup north on Eighth Avenue when she made a left turn and struck Wages, who was traveling south on her Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Witnesses used cellphones to snap photos of the truck, which allowed police to link Dee to the crime. She was eventually contacted in Utah and agreed to turn herself in.

The plea agreement was offered by Jason Eley, assistant district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District in Cortez. In explaining his rational for offering the plea deal, Eley said the defendant is young, remorseful and lacks a criminal history.

Until last week, Eley was a candidate for the top prosecutor position in the 6th Judicial District, which includes Durango. He dropped out of the race after Gov. Jared Polis appointed Sean Murray as interim DA to replace Christian Champagne, who took a new job. Murray remains the lone candidate in the 6th Judicial District attorney’s race.

The hit-and-run case was handled by Eley’s office because the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest. Specifically, Murray witnessed the crash and called 911.

The plea deal called for a minimum of eight days in jail or a maximum of 90 days – to be left to Baca’s discretion. It also would have allowed Dee to complete her jail sentence on weekends, so long as she maintained employment or was enrolled in school. It also would have required Dee to take a driver’s education class, complete 300 hours of community service and serve three years on probation.

Baca gave prosecutors and defense lawyers another month to try to reach a plea agreement. If they cannot reach an agreement that is acceptable to Baca, the case is expected to be set for trial.

In a brief interview after Wednesday’s hearing, Wages said the plea deal seemed too lenient. She said she is cautiously optimistic a more favorable deal can be struck.

“I’m encouraged that the judge rejected the current plea agreement, which was woefully inadequate,” Wages said.

About 30 friends and family members attended Wednesday’s hearing to show support for Wages. Several more have written letters of support, some asking Judge Baca to consider a harsher sentence.

In addition to losing her lower left leg, Wages suffered a head injury, dislocated shoulder, and a broken hand and wrist.

Dee’s public defense lawyer, Ryan Day, said Dee has been a model client and listens to his advice. If Dee has not appeared remorseful, it is because she is quiet and shy and has been advised not to speak about the case, Day told the court.

Dee is expected to return to court at 1:30 p.m. April 19 to enter a new plea agreement or set the case for trial.


Reader Comments