Lawyer asks charges be dismissed in trooper dragging
Pontiac — An attorney for a man charged with the dragging death of a Michigan State trooper is seeking to have charges dismissed — claiming authorities have failed to prove the crimes charged against his client.
Attorney Neil Rockind argued Wednesday before Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford Morris that there is no evidence of reckless driving by Charles Warren of Waterford Township, who thought he had hit a pothole on Interstate 75 and subsequently pulled into a rest area because he was having difficulty with his trailer.
“This is an extremely delicate case,” he said. “It involves two otherwise well-intended individuals who were traveling at the same time doing different things. This doesn’t involve alcohol, drug use, road rage or distracted driving. Police looked at all these things in an effort to determine fault for death.
“It’s a horrible tragic moment when two people came together and their lives were changed for the worse.”
Rockind also said he believes the district judge abused her discretion in binding the case over for trial.
Trooper Chad Wolf, 38, of Fenton was killed when the motorcycle he was riding on struck the rear of an unlit trailer being pulled by Warren in Springfield Township. The trooper was catapulted over the side of the trailer’s wheels, became lodged and was dragged nearly four miles on the highway.
The father of four children was later pronounced dead at an area hospital, his death resulting from the crash.
Warren, a 69-year-old real estate agent, waited for police and cooperated with investigators. He was charged with reckless driving causing death and failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault resulting in death. Both are felonies which carry up to 15 years in prison.
Clarkston District Court testimony over two days showed Warren was heading north with the empty trailer when he approached a ramp off Dixie Highway leading to northbound I-75. He told investigators he heard a “helluva bump” but figured he hit a large pothole.
It is believed Wolf was traveling behind the trailer when Warren turned late onto the ramp. Wolf then slammed into the trailer.
“Part of the definition of reckless driving causing death is wanton and willful disregard for the safety of others,” Rockind said. “He has to exhibit a deliberate indifference. He has to know his behavior is putting others at risk on the road ... and you can’t have an offense of leaving the scene of an injury accident if you are not aware of causing an accident.”
Rockind said the conditions shortly after 6 a.m. that day were “pitch black.” He noted state experts testified there was no evidence Warren veered from the left lane to the right lane, but that both vehicles were believed to have been traveling in the right lane. There is no evidence Wolf ever had used flashing lights or even had his motorcycle headlight turned on at the time of impact, he added.
“I have a lot of sympathy for Trooper Wolf’s family,” Rockind said. “It’s a tough argument to make but I believe under other circumstances, if this didn’t involve a trooper, Mr. Warren would not be charged.”
Assistant Prosecutor David Hutson noted that when Warren left home that morning with a trailer that was unlit with at least one light, as required by law, “that was the beginning of reckless criminal behavior.”
Witnesses testified they saw sparks shooting off the back of the trailer “lighting up the sky” as he drove north on I-75. A trailer wheel had broken during the impact with the motorcycle and it was partly being dragged down the road, Hutson said.
“The totality of circumstances show he was recklessly driving,” said Hutson, who noted Warren should have pulled over and inspected his trailer immediately. “Yes this is a difficult case, especially in the nature of charges and what happened. But after an accident you should stop immediately. You are required to stop. This wasn’t a flat tire. This wasn’t a pothole.”
When Langford Morris repeated Rockind’s point that Warren “didn’t have eyes in the back of his head” to know what had happened Hutson responded: “He had rearview mirrors.”
Langford Morris said she may issue a written opinion before having attorneys return to court Nov. 9.