A Benton City man pleaded guilty Monday to slamming into the back of a slow-moving vehicle on a Prosser road and injuring a passenger.
Kyle Justin Wininger, 32, had claimed that he tried to swerve unsuccessfully before the Nov. 9, 2013, collision.
He originally was charged in Benton County Superior Court with felony vehicular assault, but the charge was lowered to first-degree negligent driving, a misdemeanor, after plea negotiations.
At issue was whether Wininger was under the influence of a pain medication while driving, or if he took an oxycodone pill immediately after the 7:50 a.m. crash and it took effect by the time law enforcement began investigating.
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Judge Bruce Spanner sentenced Wininger to three months in the county jail with all but three days suspended on the condition he pays all fines, court fees and any restitution from outstanding claims.
Wininger must report to the Benton County jail by March 30 to serve his three days. It was unclear if he has any credit for time already served since he has been out of custody on his personal recognizance.
According to court documents, Prosser police and Benton County sheriff’s deputies responded to the two-vehicle collision on Johnson Road and found one person standing next to a vehicle.
One of the victims was in an ambulance when he told deputies that Wininger had been behind the wheel when he rear-ended them.
Wininger said the vehicle was moving slowly and he tried to avoid the crash but it was too late, documents said.
Jesus Cuevas Gonzalez, the driver of the vehicle hit from behind, suffered a cut to his head. His passenger, Daniel Cuevas Barragan, had several broken ribs and was hospitalized for seven days, court documents said.
A deputy examined Wininger at the scene and determined he was under the influence of a narcotic analgesic. He got a search warrant to draw Wininger’s blood and tests showed signs of oxycodone.
“I had a prescription for oxycodone. The oxycodone in my system may have contributed to my ability to avoid colliding with vehicle in front of me,” Wininger wrote in his plea statement Monday. “As a result of the collision the other parties were injured.”
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Killgore said she agreed to reduce the charge because of Wininger’s lack of any significant criminal history, the facts of the case and the victim’s opinion.
Before the crash, Wininger had only a criminal conviction for third-degree driving with a suspended license in 2002.
Wininger “claims that he took an oxycodone pill after the collision occurred,” Killgore wrote. “It will be difficult for the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this is untrue.”
Also, Barragan did not want to come to court or to testify. He was satisfied with the amended charge and recommended sentence, Killgore said.