Investigators: No Evidence of Criminal Intent

By: CBS News Email
By: CBS News Email

(CBS News) There has never been another incident in race car driving quite like the one on Saturday night in Canandaigua in upstate New York: An angry young driver named Kevin Ward Jr. got out of his car after a dust-up with NASCAR veteran Tony Stewart and walked to the middle of the dark, muddy track in a black firesuit, angrily gesturing.

Stewart passed by and with his rear wheel clipped Ward, who was later pronounced dead by the time he got to the hospital.

"At this very moment, there are no facts in hand that would substantiate or support criminal charge or indicate criminal intent on the part of any individual," Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said on Sunday.

Officials have interviewed Stewart twice since Ward died, and said simply the driver was "visibly shaken."

Despite all that, Stewart may not be out of the legal woods yet, CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford told "CBS This Morning."

"They're going to look at all possibilities here," Ford said. "There could be some type of charges out of here that don't focus on intent."

In other words, Stewart might have not meant it, but there is still the possibility of charges like criminally negligent homicide if prosecutors can prove Stewart was "ignoring obvious risk," Ford said.

Additionally, Stewart's notorious past could play a role.

CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reports Stewart got in a helmet-throwing incident two years ago and made a statement that could play a role here: "I checked up twice not to run over him. And I learned my lesson there, and I'm going to run over him every chance I got until the end of the year. Every chance I got."

Last year, Stewart also got in a fistfight with another driver after an on-track incident.

"If I'm a prosecutor and I'm taking a look at this, I'm going want to know about his conduct in the past," Ford said. "It would be a factor in intent, and it could also be a factor in the notion of negligence."

David S. Weinsten, a former state and federal prosecutor in Miami who is now in private practice, told the Associated Press it would be difficult to prove criminal intent.

"I think even with the video, it's going to be tough to prove that this was more than just an accident and that it was even culpable negligence, which he should've known or should've believed that by getting close to this guy, that it was going to cause the accident," he said.

Sheriff Poverio has made several pleas for spectators to turn over photos and videos of the crash. Investigators were reconstructing the accident and looking into everything from the dim lighting on a portion of the track to how muddy it was, as well as if Ward's dark firesuit played a role in his death, given the conditions.


Join the Conversation!

To comment, the following rules must be followed:

  • No Obscenity, Profanity, Vulgarity, Racism or Violent Descriptions
  • No Negative Community Comparisons
  • No Fighting, Name-calling, or Personal Attacks
  • Multiple Accounts are Not Allowed
  • Stay on Story Topic

Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content, but the station is under no legal obligation to do so.
If you believe a comment violates the above rules, please use the Flagging Tool to alert a Moderator.
Flagging does not guarantee removal.

Multiple violations may result in account suspension.
Decisions to suspend or unsuspend accounts are made by Station Moderators.
Questions may be sent to comments@wsaw.com.
Please provide detailed information.
All comments must adhere to the WSAW.com discussion rules.

powered by Disqus