INDEPENDENCE – A judge has declined to throw out charges against reality TV star Chris Soules in the April crash that killed an Aurora farmer.
Defense attorneys had asked the court to dismiss a felony leaving the scene charge against Soules, arguing Soules had stopped following the collision, called 911 and identified himself, and rendered aid to 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher until medics arrived.
Prosecutors said Soules, 36, of rural Arlington, left the scene before law enforcement arrived and then refused to exit his home until sheriff’s deputies obtained a warrant.
Trial had been scheduled for Jan. 18 in Buchanan County District Court in Independence, but the trial was postponed during a Thursday conference, and a new date will be set later this month.
During a November hearing, defense attorney Robert Montgomery argued the charges should be thrown out because Iowa law — written before the advent cell phones — was vague as it applied to the case and was unconstitutional because it infringed on Soules’ right against unreasonable search and seizure and self-incrimination.
In a ruling handed down Friday, Judge Andrea Dryer declined to dismiss the charges, allowing the case to move toward trial.
“Under this construction the defendant’s conduct does not clearly fall outside the statute. The statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to the defendant,” Dryer wrote in her ruling.
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Dryer also found the statute doesn’t amount to unreasonable seizure and doesn’t require self-incrimination.
“The existence of a statute that imposes duties upon all surviving drivers of vehicles involved in accidents causing the death of a person as part of a chapter regulating motor vehicles and their use in this state is not a ‘seizure’ under either the United States or Iowa Constitution,” she wrote.
“Only evidence that is testimonial in nature is protected by the Fifth Amendment. … The act of remaining at or returning to the scene of an accident causing a person’s death is no more testimonial than a person in custody’s submission to fingerprinting, photographing or other physical measurements, writing or speaking for identification, standing, walking, or making a particular gesture, or submission to a blood test,” the ruling continued.
During the November hearing, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown argued the law requires drivers to remain at a scene to allow law enforcement to collect information about the crash. He said Soules left after only about 14 minutes.
On Friday following the ruling, Soules’ attorneys issued a statement saying they plan to appeal Dryer’s ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court. The defense team said Soules wasn’t evading liability and made sure Mosher was receiving treatment, and attorneys said the prosecution is based on a technicality in the statute.
“In response to the ruling, Mr. Soules’ attorneys again emphasized that Mr. Soules indisputably called 911, identified himself, explained his role in this tragic accident, and tried to save Mr. Mosher. Attorney Brandon Brown noted the Iowa Supreme Court has never considered whether such actions can rightfully be punished as a ‘hit and run,’” the statement read.
Last month, Brandon Brown, member of the defense team, also submitted a notice Soules may use a diminished capacity defense based on injuries he sustained.