Charge dropped in fatal bike accident
January 11, 2014
A charge of vehicular homicide was dismissed against Douglas County District Judge Michael Gibbons in a civil compromise approved Wednesday.
The family of a man killed as the result of an Aug. 20, 2013, accident involving Gibbons didn’t want the judge prosecuted, attorneys said Thursday.
Gibbons was charged in the death of Joseph A. Longo, 61, a Gardnerville bicyclist who collided with Gibbons’ vehicle while the judge was turning from Pine Nut Road onto East Valley Road.
Longo was not wearing a helmet.
“We are very pleased that the misdemeanor traffic charge filed against Judge Michael Gibbons has been dismissed by the court,” Gibbons’ attorneys David Houston and Kenneth Lyon said in a statement Thursday.
The order was signed by Moapa Valley Justice of the Peace Lanny Waite at the request of Reno attorney Curtis Coulter, who is representing Longo’s daughter, Kaitlyn Vander Laan.
Waite was assigned the case after East Fork Justice of the Peace Tom Perkins disqualified himself.
“Coulter stated in an affidavit to the court that neither he nor his client felt criminal charges were appropriate and they asked that the case be dismissed,” Houston and Lyon said in their statement. ”Those sentiments had been previously conveyed to Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson.”
Jackson said he was asked on Monday by Waite if he agreed with the settlement.
Jackson said he told the judge he didn’t agree with the proposal, but that he didn’t have the authority to put that in writing.
As district attorney, he said he was not party to the settlement conference, the results of which are sealed.
Waite issued a stay against further proceedings and ordered all charges against Gibbons be dismissed. A Jan. 13 court date was vacated.
The attorneys said Gibbons was relieved to have the case dismissed. The judge filed for his fourth term on Monday.
“No one wants to be personally involved in litigation, especially a judge,” they said in a statement. “The judge will continue to work for improved traffic safety and particularly for the use of helmets in all appropriate sports. This tragic incident has affected many people and the judge wants to make sure positive changes result.”
A Nevada Highway Patrol investigation determined Gibbons was at fault in the accident.
Houston and Lyon said they recreated the accident twice, using both a forensic engineer and a former Nevada Highway Patrol accident reconstruction specialist, and would have presented evidence that Gibbons wasn’t at fault.
“We believe that this case is more properly resolved in a civil court because our accident reconstruction has shown that Judge Gibbons did not hit the bicyclist,” Houston said.