IDAHO FALLS — A California man has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from a double fatality crash in September.
Nicholas R. Perea, 21, appeared before Magistrate Judge Steven A. Gardner on Friday for a change of plea hearing and sentencing.
Perea, of Canyon Lake, California, was arrested following a traffic collision at 17th Street and Curtis Avenue in September. Police said a 1990 Mazda Miata driven by Perea crashed into a 2013 Buick LaCrosse, driven by an 82‐year‐old Idaho Falls man. The driver of the LaCrosse and his two passengers, a 79‐year‐old Idaho Falls woman and an 86‐year‐old Washington woman, were transported to the hospital.
The two passengers died from their injuries.
Perea was charged with two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter.
In January, Perea and prosecutors reached a plea agreement, reducing the felony charges to misdemeanors.
Perea pleaded guilty and was sentenced on both charges Friday. Gardner sentenced Perea to 365 days in jail with 305 days suspended, credited for two days served and two years probation for each charge.
Perea will spend a minimum of 118 days in county jail, and after completing that Perea will be placed on supervised probation for four years.
Perea was ordered to pay nearly $1,400 in fines and given a withheld judgment, meaning if he completes the terms of his probation, the charges will be dismissed.
Restitution will be decided at a later date.
In January Bonneville County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Dewey told EastIdahoNews.com the felony charges were based on eyewitness accounts that alleged Perea’s excessive and reckless speed, which constituted gross negligence.
But investigators conducted an accident reconstruction, which revealed the range of speeds Perea may have been traveling was much lower than the eyewitness accounts, falling under amounts that the prosecutor’s office would consider grossly negligent or reckless.
Further, in discussions with the victims’ families, the prosecutor’s office decided that a prison term was not necessary for Perea’s actions.
Dewey said Perea had no prior record and was apparently very remorseful for what he did. He was also anxious to take responsibility.
The victim’s family agreed with the resolution based on the circumstances.
Dewey says there was discussion regarding the apparent failure to stop by the vehicle the victims were riding in, but the actual speeds of Perea’s vehicle is the predominant reason for the lesser charges and plea agreement.
The city of Idaho Falls has refused to release names of the two passengers who died in the crash.
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com, and Bonneville County Sheriff's Office
David Ashby, Idaho State Journal
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com