Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Driver Gets 5 Years in ROW

Driver gets five years in traffic injuryby Sheila Gardner, sgardner@recordcourier.comJune 27, 2007A 26-year-old Gardnerville Ranchos woman who left the scene of a traffic accident which cost the victim his leg, then lied to officers about her involvement, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in Nevada State Prison.District Judge Dave Gamble told Kimberly E. Garcia she must serve 24 months before she is eligible for parole."You don't have a clue about right or wrong," Gamble said. "You need some time in prison to figure it out."She pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident March 18 which caused permanent injury or death.The victim, Claude Kelly, 60, of Reno, testified Tuesday about the impact the injury had on his life.Leaning against the jury box for support, he choked back tears as he talked about how much he loved riding motorcycles, an activity he enjoyed since high school."It was the first nice day of spring and I was out for a Sunday drive. I did my best to be out every month. It made me happy and provided a release for me from work to be able to get out and ride," he said.Shannon Litz/The R-C Claude Kelly talks about the accident and his recovery after Judge Dave Gamble's sentencing on Tuesday, June 26.Browse and Buy Record Courier Photos Kelly said he was headed south on Foothill Road near Genoa when he noticed a white pickup heading north cross into his lane."The vehicle seemed to match my movements," he said. "I moved to the right and it moved to the right."He said he remembered the collision and recalled making a cell phone call to his 85-year-old mother from the helicopter which took him to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno."After that, I don't remember anything from the next 3-1/2 weeks," Kelly said.Under questioning by prosecutor Michael McCormick, Kelly said he didn't know if he would ride again."I don't know that I would take that chance," he said. "My mom had to make the decision to have my leg removed. I don't know if I want to put my family through that again."When asked what punishment Garcia deserved, Kelly said it was difficult to answer."My attitude is that I have to live my life now that I've been dealt this blow," he said. "I can't dwell on what happens to her. She needs to go to jail for sure, but that's not going to help me."Douglas County investigator Steven Schultz testified that he questioned Garcia's mother for more than half an hour before she told him the truth. Originally, Garcia's mother said she had been in a single-vehicle accident on Highway 88, but Schultz said her account didn't match the damage to the vehicle.According to reports, Garcia fled the scene, called her mother and took the truck to a tire store to replace the left front tire which was damaged in the collision with Kelly's 2002 BMW motorcycle.Schultz said Garcia did not admit her guilt until after her mother confronted her.McCormick also produced a citation which Garcia received a month after the accident for illegally passing a vehicle."The concerns I have are her veracity, character, whether she should ever be allowed to be behind the wheel of a car again," Gamble said. "She uses cars as an extension of her own anger or as though there is nobody else in the world but her and her own needs."I don't think she figured out even after listening to Mr. Kelly the magnitude of what she did."Her lawyer, Tod Young, said Garcia recognized "the lifelong harm she did, but says, 'this was an accident' to get up every day and look at herself.""It's not a denial of the harm she's done. It does matter that she hurt somebody," Young said.Garcia told Gamble she "felt bad." "It was an honest accident," she said. "I do feel bad. It's not like I can move on with my life. I didn't mean to hurt anybody."She blamed the second citation on another driver."Another car tried to pass me on the double-yellow line. It was his fault," she said.After the sentencing, Kelly said he was glad it was over."It has been a long road. The sentencing puts a little bit of closure on it. I've just got to keep on working to get the leg to work better so I won't need my 'baby-sitter' anymore," he said referring to his mother, Minnie Kelly, who lives in Montana.Kelly said he was conscious after the accident."I remember being hit and I was rolling down the road. I knew my left leg hurt. I was laying on my left side and I moved myself to take out my money clip, my medical card and my license. I remember that I took my glasses off," he said.He said witnesses were at his side within seconds, giving Garcia's license plate number to law enforcement officers."I can't describe the pain," he said. "Sometimes it was more like numbness."He has been fitted with a temporary prosthesis until the swelling goes down. Kelly attends physical therapy twice a week.His cousin, Jan Baker, of Huntington, Ore., has been providing transportation.Kelly said he hasn't received a hospital bill yet, but the total is approaching $280,000. He said employees of the auto parts store where he works built a ramp at his Reno home, donating material and labor out of their own pockets.Garcia also was ordered to pay Kelly $7,751 restitution for expenses not covered by insurance.Gamble fined Garcia $1,000 and ordered her mother to turn over the young woman's driver's license.

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