Today the Grand Jury determined that no criminal charges would be brought against NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in the death of Kevin Ward Jr. According to Fox Sports, Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo announced that the jury has completed its investigation, and made its decision based on all the facts presented.
Their decision comes only one day after testimonies were given that determined Kevin Ward Jr. was under the influence of marijuana the night of the accident, per ABC News. It was “enough to impair judgment,” according to Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo. He continued to say that two videos examined by investigators showed “no aberrational driving by Tony Stewart.”
There were several things taken into consideration during the course of the investigation. ABC News reports that investigators considered the “dim lighting, how muddy it was and whether Ward’s dark fire suit played a role in his death, given the conditions.” However, regardless of all these factors, Ward Jr.’s father said there is “no reason” for his son’s death given Stewart’s experience and skills behind the wheel of a race car.
While Tantillo could have determined the case on his own, he insisted it be tried before a Grand Jury, where he asked them to consider charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide against Stewart. ABC News reports the charges didn’t receive the required 12 votes.
The sequence of events that lead Stewart to the Grand Jury’s decision today started on that fatal day of August 9, when, according to USA Today, during the Empire Super Sprint race at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.’s car took a spin in Turn 2. The two drivers had been racing side-by-side when Ward ran into an outside fence.
Ward stumbled out of his car, and obviously angry, started to approach Stewart’s car on the track.
It was at that time that Stewart’s car struck Ward Jr., throwing him a few dozen feet and killing him due to blunt force trauma. Ontario County Sheriff Philip C. Povero stated that Stewart has been completely cooperative during the entire investigation.
This video shows the events that took place that dreadful night. Warning: This video is graphic.
Devastated, Stewart was unable to run the next three races, and later made a statement to the public, as reported by USA Today.
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. … it’s a very emotional time for all involved, My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
After Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo announced that he had forwarded evidence from the crash investigation, Stewart still swore to give his full cooperation in the investigation, as reported by USA Today.
“I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office in investigating this tragic accident. I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation.”
After weeks of grueling investigations, Sheriff Philip Povero admits they “did not have evidence to suggest Stewart meant to harm the other driver,” according to ABC News.
Now that all is said and done, and Stewart will not face any criminal charges, ABC News reports his statement to the press.
“This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
This horrible incident has most certainly played its role in Stewart’s racing career. Once Stewart was back in the driver’s seat, the three-time Cup champion has failed to finish within the top ten spots in the four Cup events.
[Photo Credit: FoxCarolina.com]