Kauffman's client acquitted of vehicular assault
Katie Kauffman won a not-guilty verdict this week for a client charged with vehicular assault, a Class B felony that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Kauffman’s client, who has no criminal history, likely would have received a much shorter sentence had he been convicted but a conviction would have cost him his job as a commercial driver.
While the Clark County Superior Court jury acquitted Kauffman’s client, they returned a guilty verdict for a co-defendant whom Kauffman argued was the one at fault even though he escaped unscathed from the 2018 traffic accident.
Kauffman was assisted at trial by attorney Gregger Highberg. The trial lasted four days. Jurors deliberated approximately three hours before reaching the verdicts on Feb. 13.
The charges stemmed from a Sept. 14, 2018, accident on Interstate 205. Kauffman’s client testified he was driving home from work in his 2003 Acura RSX. When he entered the northbound on-ramp to I-205 from westbound Padden Parkway there was a large red truck – a Dodge Ram 3500 -- following too close.
As he told Washington State Patrol officers who investigated the accident, he told jurors he tapped his brakes twice to try and signal to the truck driver to back off. Witnesses testified that not only did the truck driver not back off, he tried going around the Acura to pass it on the shoulder of the one-lane on-ramp.
Kauffman’s client said he felt as though he was being forced off the road. He lost control of his Acura. His sedan flew through the wooded median onto I-205, where it was hit by a northbound motorcyclist.
The motorcyclist suffered broken bones and spent three days in a hospital. He testified that he only remembered seeing a glimpse of an airborne blue car coming out of the wooded median and had no time to react and avoid a collision. He crashed into the driver’s side door and was ejected from his motorcycle.
During closing arguments, Kauffman said the chain of events was started by the co-defendant.
One witness, who was ahead of the vehicles on the on-ramp, watched the truck try and pass the Acura in her rearview mirror. She called 911 and explained to the dispatcher what caused the accident.
The driver of the Dodge Ram did stop after the Acura flew off the road. A second witness, who'd been two vehicles behind the Ram on the on-ramp, parked in front of the truck to ensure the driver didn’t leave the scene.
The co-defendant testified the Acura had cut him off and that’s why it appeared he was following too close. He said he wasn’t trying to pass the Acura and maintained he was only trying to get away from the Acura. Kauffman and the prosecutor both questioned his logic, asking why, if he wanted to get away from the Acura, didn’t he slow down rather than pull alongside it.
No witnesses corroborated his allegation that he was cut off by Kauffman’s client.
The lead detective from the Washington State Patrol, when he forwarded his reports to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, did not make any recommendations as to whether criminal charges should be filed.
The WSP reports sat on a Clark County senior deputy prosecutor’s desk for months before he filed charges of vehicular assault against both drivers. He argued to jurors that the co-defendants were at fault for being selfish, angry men who drove without regard for other motorists.