The Innocent Accused


I saw this story in the Salt Lake Tribune the other day.  The man caused an accident that killed another man.  It was an "accident."  A so called "expert cop trained to spot impaired drivers" accused this man of being under the influence of a central nervous system depressant.  The man was jailed for 3 months on felony charges, automobile homicide.  The problem is that the blood was tested several times with nothing found in his system.  I can’t imagine all that he has lost in three months.  Contrary to witnesses’ opinion, the "expert" officer formed the opinion that this man was impaired because he talked slow and was stumbling around.  He had just been in a horrible accident.

After three months in jail, felony charges dismissed against Salt Lake man
Gabriel Idowu » Hit and killed man in wheelchair in WVC accident

By Steve Gehrke

The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune

For the rest of his life, Gabi Idowu says he will wrestle with a haunting memory: knowing he careened off a West Valley road and killed Kenneth Christensen — a 76-year-old grandfather, father and brother.

But for now the 24-year-old college student can reclaim his jobs, return to school and begin paying back debts that piled up as he spent three months in jail. Prosecutors last Friday dismissed a felony charge accusing him of automobile homicide for driving under the influence of a depressant during the May 27 accident along West Valley’s 3500 South.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said the charge was based on the word of an expert officer trained to spot impaired drivers. But blood tests — and retests — from Utah and out-of-state labs came back negative.

Idowu said on Wednesday his new freedom is bittersweet.

"Someone died. That is my punishment," he said. "It hurts to know I affected this family’s lives in such a drastic way, and anything I could do to alleviate their pain, I would do."

Christensen’s daughter, Clover Daniels, is upset at prosecutors for letting Idowu off. She said he is a killer who doesn’t deserve her forgiveness.

"There is no forgiveness in us at all. There never will be. What he did was wrong," Daniels said. "And him getting a slap on the wrist is a slap in our faces."

Daniels isn’t the only one upset with how the case has been handled. Sitting in jail for nearly 90 days left Idowu frustrated with police, who acknowledge they don’t often ask prosecutors to file a DUI automobile homicide charge before toxicology results come back.

The request for charges, said West Valley Capt. Tom McLachlan, was based solely on an officer’s observations: Idowu’s eyes were bloodshot and he was stumbling.

Idowu’s friends told prosecutors he normally speaks slowly and is unsteady on his feet, said District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Alicia Cook. And accident witnesses told a private investigator that Idowu simply appeared stunned from the crash and was crying a lot.

Officers never investigated Idowu’s description of a second car, which he said sped alongside him and cut him off as he moved to make a left turn, causing him to swerve off the road and strike Christensen, who was in his wheelchair on the sidewalk near a bus stop. Police allege Idowu simply didn’t check his blind spot.

Police sent Idowu’s blood for a second test because of the severity of the accident, McLachlan said.

"It’s not that we’re going after this guy, because we’re not. But where it involves a fatality, you try to leave no investigative stone unturned," McLachlan said. "He obviously was involved in a very serious accident, and on the face of it, his actions were the cause of it. We’re just trying to get justice served — whatever that may be."

Ultimately, Idowu said he knows there are "good cops" but he believes his case was "handled with prejudice." Idowu is a Nigerian citizen who immigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago.

When he was sent to jail, Idowu didn’t eat for a week and didn’t speak to anyone about the accident for a month. Idowu said he eventually turned to God and "accepted that whatever happens will happen."

"I decided I would accept any fate, but at the same time I would not go down without a fight. I would not plead guilty to bogus charges," Idowu said, adding that he didn’t want the charges against him to taint the public’s views of all his fellow Nigerians.

Idowu now is piecing his life back together.

But with her father dead, Daniels noted her family won’t get the same opportunity.

"He’s not there to say I love you, we’ll never feel his arms and we’re barely getting by without him," Daniels said, adding that she’s struggling as a single mother of two girls, 9 and 11, to afford her own house payments and keep her mom in a rest home. "He will never see his granddaughters grow up and get married and have a family of their own."

Said Idowu: "I ask them to forgive me. And even if they choose not to, I would understand."
What’s next:

Though his felony charges were dismissed in West Valley Justice Court, Gabi Idowu now faces a class C misdemeanor charge for failure to signal and a class B misdemeanor charge for failure to maintain control of his vehicle.

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