Niles motorist gets 60 days for hitting, killing pedestrianPublished 6:07pm Thursday, November 21, 2013
Kory Bridges sat at the front of the courtroom and looked straight ahead as the judge read his sentence. Behind him, his mother gasped and cried out a single word: “Why?”
The 27-year-old Niles man was sentenced Friday in Cass County District Court, receiving 60 days in jail on misdemeanor charges of moving violation causing death and resisting and obstructing police.
As the bailiff escorted Bridges out of the courtroom Bridges turned to his family and said, “I love you.”
The charges stem from an incident that occurred on Michigan Highway 60 in Howard Township at around 9:20 p.m. on April 29, 2012.
Bridges was driving a vehicle east on M-60 near Lilac Avenue when his vehicle struck and killed 51-year-old Charles Lintz, of Niles.
Bridges didn’t stop at the scene, later telling authorities he thought he had hit a deer. When he learned a person had been hit, he turned himself in the following day.
Bridges apologized to the Lintz family and his own family Friday.
“I understand that they (Lintz family) want justice and I feel like I gave them justice when I went in that morning and volunteered all the information I could,” said Bridges, who has no prior criminal record. “I’ve made good choices my entire life and I don’t want one bad choice — by not calling the state police to say I hit a deer — I don’t want that to affect my whole entire life.
“(We) were both at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Prosecutor Victor Fitz asked the judge to sentence Bridges to a year in jail, the maximum penalty allowable in this case.
“He’s got a lot of good qualities, but on that night, on that occasion, he was selfish and he was cowardly,” Fitz said. “I think he probably knew it was a human being… and yet he still left that person not knowing if the person was dead or alive.”
Defense attorney Tad Parrish described his client as a good, hard-working young man with a bright future and distinguished military record.
Parrish said Bridges couldn’t have known what he hit because it was dark and raining “cats and dogs” the night of the incident.
“Basically, this is a sad situation,” Parrish said. “We are dealing with a very good person and it would be totally unnecessary, totally unfair to send him to jail.”
Parrish told the judge Lintz had just been in an argument and was walking in the roadway with a blood alcohol level of .23 at the time he was killed.
“If he (Bridges) had any fault in the matter it’s because he was driving under or at the speed limit when he should’ve been at a crawl [because of the rainy conditions],” Parrish said.
Fitz said Bridges was recovering from a broken arm and had it in a sling at the time of the accident. He scolded Bridges for driving too fast in the rain and taking his eyes off the road to change the radio station.
“That is the last time you should take your eyes off the road,” he said.
Lintz’s daughter said the incident has taken a huge toll on her family.
“Not only was he taken from us, but the manner in which he was taken was so horrible,” Misty Vaughn said. “No one should be hit and left on the road the way he was.”
Judge Stacey Rentfrow called the case difficult because the crime wasn’t intentional.
In addition to handing out the two-month sentence, Rentfrow placed Bridges on 24 months probation. The judge can extend the sentence an additional six months if Bridges doesn’t comply with the terms of probation.
Bridges was originally charged with failure to stop at the scene of a fatal accident, a five-year felony. As part of a plea deal, Bridges pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of moving violation causing death.
Fitz said they offered the plea deal because it would have been difficult to convict him of the felony charge.
“The issue on this all along was whether or not he knew that he hit a human being,” Fitz said. “That is a challenging element to prove under these circumstances. We discussed this with the family at great length and this was a plea they were comfortable with.”
He said he was pleased with the outcome.
“I think this sends a message that when you drive in an unsafe fashion, and you don’t stop, there is going to be consequences,” he said. “I think justice has been done in that he has been convicted of two serious offenses and will serve time for taking the life of another person.”