In Carson: Man sent to prison in 2006 wreck that killed two
May 30, 2007
A Carson City man was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison Tuesday for being under the influence of marijuana in a 2006 Deer Run Road wreck in which his two friends were killed.
Billy Joe Thompson, 24, apologized to the families of victims Ashley Masek, 20, and Eric Thompson, 19, no relation, prior to being sentenced to four to 10 years by District Court Judge Bill Maddox.
“I feel bad that it took all of this for me to realize that marijuana isn’t OK,” Billy Joe Thompson added.
Court records indicate he had 32 nanograms of marijuana in his blood within two hours of the Feb. 16, 2006, accident. A person is determined to be impaired at 2 nanograms.
According the Nevada Highway Patrol investigation, Billy Joe Thompson was southbound near Mallow Road when he lost control and went into a broadside skid, careening into a rock and cement pillar, then overturning. His estimated speed was between 82 and 88 mph in the 25 mph zone. He allegedly told officers he was going about 30 mph when he swerved to avoid a dog.
Ashley Masek died en route to the hospital. Eric Thompson was pronounced dead at the scene.
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Billy Joe Thompson’s grandparents, who adopted him when he was 2 weeks old, offered testimony on his behalf.
“Billy called me within 10 minutes after the accident, and he was crying and sobbing,” said grandfather Alvis Thompson. “Ever since then, he has been very remorseful.”
Alvis Thompson said that although he was unaware of his marijuana habit at the time, his grandson has since admitted he used marijuana for a painful degenerative back disease.
Grandmother Geraldine Thompson cried as she offered her condolences to the families.
“I know every day that (Billy) grieves. He is so deeply, deeply sorry,” she said.
She said for the past year, her grandson has gone to counseling every Thursday night and has vowed to stay away from drugs.
Thompson’s wife, Toni, also offered some words on his behalf.
“My husband is a wonderful guy and a very hard worker,” she said. “He understands now the full consequences of every decision he makes in his life.”
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Kelly Werth, Toni Thompson said her husband frequently smoked marijuana, even with the victims.
“They all smoked together. They just liked to hang out,” she said.
But Eric Thompson’s mother, Kathy, dismissed the suggestion that Billy Joe Thompson was self-medicating with the marijuana.
“Sometimes we just have to own up to the fact that we do things,” she said.
Kathy Thompson said she didn’t see the marijuana use as the cause of the wreck.
“The biggest reason why those two people died was the speed you were going,” she said. “It was a senseless, reckless act. You made the decision to drive at a very high rate of speed on a two-lane residential street.”
She went on to say that although she was certain Billy Joe Thompson was sorry, he had excuses for the marijuana use and denied the excessive speeds estimated by the investigation.
“It’s very important to this family that he finally acknowledge and accept full responsibility,” she said.
In asking for 42 to 120 months in prison on the two charges of driving under the influence of drugs causing death, Deputy District Attorney Werth said:
“Ashley Masek and Eric Thompson aren’t here and they are not here but for Mr. Thompson getting behind the wheel, having ingested marijuana and driving in a such a manner that he went off the road, rolled the vehicle and two people lost their lives.”
Maddox agreed and added six months onto the minimum that Thompson must serve before being eligible for parole.
“I would hope, Mr. Thompson, that you are punishing yourself more than I have,” the judge said.
Gov. Jim Gibbons, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio today announced a budget deal that paves the way for the end of the 2007 Legislature.
“Everybody gave a little,” Raggio said from the steps of the Capitol. “While it isn’t perfect, I think it’s the nearest we can agree to.”
Conspicuously absent from the press conference was Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas. She reportedly said her 10-member caucus will stand solidly against the plan if necessary. But since she and other Democrats supported the compromise Monday until Gibbons balked at the business tax portion, it’s likely she is using her leverage to get a couple of items added to the final budget.
The big concession by Democrats was that the Modified Business Tax will not increase from 0.63 percent of gross payroll to 0.65 percent July 1.
That will cost the state about $4.5 million a year in revenue compared with the original Democratic compromise offer of 0.64 percent. Gibbons originally objected to the demand by Democrats that reduction be made up by cuts in programs Gibbons wants, not those sought by lawmakers. But he accepted that deal Tuesday.
Lawmakers also agreed to support establishment of the Nevada ChalleNGe National Guard training program for young people who are in legal trouble.
It was the business tax rollback Gibbons wanted that caused the first deal to collapse Monday. He refused to budge, saying he had promised voters he would not raise taxes. He said allowing the sunset in the law to bump the tax back up to its original level amounted to a tax increase.
Buckley said more than $63 million was added to the K-12 education budget above what Gibbons originally proposed. That is enough to put all-day kindergarten in up to 63 schools and provide Gibbons’ empowerment proposal to 29 schools statewide. There is also money to continue incentive grants to schools, which was funded at $100 million two years ago and partially used to begin the all-day kindergarten program.
Buckley said that program has been praised by teachers, parents and students.
Buckley said money for enhanced career and technical education programs is included in the spending plan ” a total of $9 million over the biennium instead of the $2 million Gibbons originally included.
For higher education, Raggio said, the deal makes the university system whole by restoring the cuts made by Gibbons to reduce spending when revenue estimates were decreased by the Economic Forum. It keeps the increased per-student formula funding proposed by Gibbons and provides more than $50 million in “hold harmless” funding to protect the budgets and programs at campuses where enrollment is below projections. In the case of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, enrollment is actually dropping.
And for professors who rely on the merit pool for increases in pay, the Assembly backed off its attempt to reduce the merit pool percentage from 2.5 percent to 2 percent this biennium only. That would have cut back the amount of money available to reward professors who perform well with a pay raise.
The Ways and Means committee approved the compromise proposal Tuesday afternoon. Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said the bill will be prepared overnight, introduced and passed as an emergency measure by the Assembly today and sent to the Senate.
After speedy Senate action, the bill goes to the governor, freeing lawmakers from the restrictions of the Education First amendment in Nevada’s Constitution which requires public schools be funded before any other agency or state need is budgeted for.
In anticipation of that, the money committees are scheduled to meet today to begin reconciling budgetary differences in a long list of agency accounts.