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Defendant in fatal car crash case avoids trial

Attorneys to discuss resolution in the Ryan W. West case Monday

Posted: February 20, 2013 - 6:03pm  |  Updated: February 21, 2013 - 1:19am
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Ryan W. West, 27, waits for his hearing to start in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday. A change of plea hearing has been set for Monday. West is charged with one count of second-degree murder for his involvement in the fatal car crash on Glacier Highway last summer that killed Gabriel Carte, 19.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Ryan W. West, 27, waits for his hearing to start in Juneau Superior Court on Wednesday. A change of plea hearing has been set for Monday. West is charged with one count of second-degree murder for his involvement in the fatal car crash on Glacier Highway last summer that killed Gabriel Carte, 19.

Ryan W. West will not be going to trial, his attorney confirmed Wednesday.

Public Defender David Seid said a resolution has been reached with prosecutors and requested a ‘change of plea’ hearing to be held on Monday, the day West was slated to stand trial for second-degree murder in connection to a fatal car crash out the road in 2011.

Judge Louis Menendez granted the request during a hearing in Juneau Superior Court and vacated the trial. An hour-long hearing is now scheduled to take place 8:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Attorneys have not yet said what deal is in place, or to what charge West will plead guilty. Those details will be discussed during the hearing.

The 27-year-old is charged with one count of second-degree murder for his involvement in the June 6, 2011, single-vehicle crash near Mile 32 of Glacier Highway that killed 19-year-old Gabriel Carte. Second-degree murder is an unclassified felony punishable by up to 99 years in jail.

Prosecutors argued West drove the vehicle at excessive speeds after drinking alcohol. West has maintained that he was not driving at the time of the crash and that he was also not intoxicated. He admitted he drank two beers earlier that evening.

The agreement that has been reached is a ‘global resolution’ that will resolve all other cases against West, Seid said.

At the time of the crash, West was on felony supervision for an earlier 2009 case wherein a 19-year-old woman was seriously injured when she was dragged by West’s truck.

According to prosecutors at the time, the woman handed West money to buy oxycontin as he was sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck. Intending to rip her off, West counted the money then sped away without giving her the drugs in return.

Then-District Attorney Douglas Gardner wrote in an affidavit that the woman held onto the truck as it accelerated out of a parking lot and that West ignored her pleas for help. She fell off after traveling about a block, and she sustained a serious head injury that required her to be medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

West ended up pleading guilty to two charges in connection to the crime, second-degree theft and duty of an operator to give information and render assistance. He received a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS), and was ordered to serve 12 months in jail for each count. He was placed on probation for five years.

West, a former Juneau-Douglas High School football star who graduated in 2004, has been forthright with his addiction, which family members said started following his father death in 2001, according to letters submitted to the court. He was the subject of an Empire article in 2009 which detailed his descent into drug addiction after he sustained a knee injury while playing football at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Two days after the fatal 2011 crash, the state filed a petition to revoke his probation, saying West admitted to drinking two beers, which is a probation violation. West admitted to that violation on June 22, 2011, in Juneau Superior Court before Justice Warren Matthews, and he is pending a disposition hearing.

The state filed a second petition to revoke probation in August, saying West provided a urine sample on July 1, 2011, that tested positive for marijuana, and another urine sample on July 24, 2011, that tested positive for Vicodin and methamphetamine, according to an affidavit filed by a probation officer. The same affidavit alleged West violated probation by breaking the law, citing the fact that he was charged in connection to the car crash.

In addition to petitioning to revoke his probation, the state charged West on July 28, 2011, with two counts of violating conditions of release for the same conduct. Violating conditions of release is a class ‘A’ misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

West remains in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $500,000 bond.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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