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Judge disqualifies herself in manslaughter case

Crime Watch

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Kevin Scott Spaulding

IDAHO FALLS — The judge scheduled to sentence Kevin Scott Spaulding for manslaughter disqualified herself Tuesday, after revealing she had suffered a personal tragedy that was similar to the case.

Magistrate Judge Penny Stanford was recently assigned to the case after the previous judge, Steven Boyce, was selected to serve as a district judge.

The manslaughter case against Spaulding has lasted nearly a year and is in its final stages. Last month, Spaulding pleaded guilty of hitting and killing 18-year-old Payton Allen as part of a plea agreement on June 19, 2018.

Allen was riding his motorcycle to work on Sunnyside Road around 5 a.m., when Spaulding, who was in a silver Range Rover, didn’t yield and struck him, police said. Allen was wearing a helmet and protective gear, but he died on impact.

RELATED: Blackfoot man pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter in death of Peyton Allen

Before Tuesday’s hearing could begin, Stanford revealed her nephew was killed 12 years ago in crash similar to Allen.

“My nephew was driving a motorcycle and a young man missed a stop sign,” Stanford said. “Mr. Spaulding has a right to know that. The state has a right to know that. You all have a right to know that because that may raise a question of whether or not I can be truly objective.”

Stanford told the audience in the courtroom that she spoke to Spaulding and his attorney as well as the prosecution that morning about the situation. After learning about Stanford’s nephew, Spaulding requested she disqualify herself.

“I want to apologize to you because I know that there is so much pain and so much worry and so much fear and so much anger,” Stanford said. “I wish that I could tell you that I could bring somebody in to do it today … but I can’t.”

She explained she is a retired judge and only fills in when no other judges are available.

“Please accept my apologies. I will disqualify myself in the case and we’ll get a new judge assigned to it and get it re-set as quickly as possible,” Stanford said.

A new sentencing date was set for Aug. 12, with Magistrate Judge Stephen Clark.