INDEPENDENCE — Reality TV star Chris Soules has pleaded to reduced charges in an April 2017 crash that claimed the life of an Aurora farmer.
Attorneys entered a written plea Tuesday on Soules’ behalf to a single count of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident in Buchanan County District Court in Independence.
Because the reduced charge is a misdemeanor, Soules didn’t have to appear in court. A hearing that had been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday was canceled.
Sentencing will be in January. Soules faces a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of up to $6,250 plus costs and surcharges. The plea agreement notes the minimum punishment could be a deferred judgment, which could remove the case from his record following probation.
Authorities had charged Soules, a 36-year-old rural Arlington resident known for his appearances on “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars,” with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, which is a Class D felony usually punishable by up to five years behind bars.
Following plea negotiations, Buchanan County Attorney Shawn Harden on Tuesday filed an amended trial information, changing the charge to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury.
Under the plea deal, the judge will postpone making a decision on whether or not to accept the agreement until after authorities complete a presentence investigation. If the judge rejects the agreement, Soules will be allowed to withdraw the plea.
On Tuesday, Judge Andrea Dryer ordered the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services to file a presentence investigation report, which will include a copy of his driving record, and gave Soules until Nov. 20 to report to correctional officials to begin the process.
During sentencing, prosecutors will adopt the punishment recommended by correctional officials in the presentence report, and Soules will be allowed to argue for deferred judgment of probation, according to the plea agreement.
In the agreement, Soules makes the following statement:
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“By way of a factual basis, I hereby state that on or about April 24, 2017, in Buchanan County, Iowa, I was driving a vehicle that was involved in an accident resulting in serious injury to another person. I knew the accident occurred, and I knew it resulted in injury to the other person. Though I immediately stopped, called 911 and identified myself, and rendered reasonable aid to the injured person — including requesting an ambulance and administering CPR while the ambulance was en route — I acknowledge I did not provide the registration number of the vehicle I was driving to 911 dispatch or law enforcement as required by Iowa Code.”
According to the accident report, Soules was driving a Chevrolet pickup truck south on Slater Avenue north of Aurora around 8:20 p.m. when he rear-ended a John Deere tractor driven by 66-year-old Kenneth Mosher. Mosher later died.
Authorities allege Soules left the scene in another vehicle after medics arrived, and was later found at his home.
Soules’ attorney, Brandon Brown, issued a written statement as part of the plea agreement, saying the defense had questioned about two dozen witnesses and didn’t find any evidence Mosher’s tractor was using flashing amber lights as was required by law.
“Based on witness testimony, the tractor could have been traveling as slow as 6 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Mr. Soules was traveling under the speed limit at the time of impact. At these speeds, law enforcement and collision experts concluded Mr. Soules reacted reasonably given the closing speed and known reaction time to seeing the slow-moving tractor. Mr. Soules found himself in an unavoidable accident,” Brown wrote in his statement.
Despite an airbag, Soules hit his head on his windshield hard enough to shatter the glass, and he suffered a concussion, according to Brown’s statement.
“One on-scene witness commented she was surprised Mr. Soules was up and walking around based on the condition of his truck,” Brown’s statement said. He said Soules was the only person who performed CPR and stopped when the chest compressions pushed blooded from Mosher’s mouth. He also showed medics where to find Mosher.
Brown also responded to earlier allegations in law enforcement reports that empty and partially consumed alcohol containers were found at the scene of the crash.
“All of the on-scene witnesses agreed there was no indication whatsoever that Mr. Soules was impaired. No one, even the individuals who knelt in close proximity to Mr. Soules while he administered CPR, smelled any alcohol or had any belief Mr. Soules had been drinking,” Brown’s statement reads.