A man involved in a violent crash on Cortez’s Main Street on Sept. 14 has pleaded guilty to two traffic offenses as part of a plea agreement.
During a Montezuma County court hearing March 17, Kaleb Barkhurst pleaded guilty to reckless driving and failing to signal while turning, according to court documents.
A charge of engaging in a speed contest was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Barkhurst, 19, was sentenced to nine months’ probation and will be required to pay restitution and take a safe-driving course. The restitution amount has yet to be determined.
As a result of the convictions, Barkhurst’s driver’s license will be revoked, said Assistant District Attorney Will Furse.
A conviction for reckless driving counts as eight points against a license, and a conviction of failing to signal is two points. Drivers under the age of 21 start out with eight points on their license.
According to police reports and witnesses, on Sept. 14 Barkhurst and Clemeaton Benally were westbound on East Main Street in separate lanes, when they allegedly entered into a speed contest.
Barkhurst’s BMW crossover vehicle slammed into the side of an eastbound Ford pickup at the intersection of Mildred Road and East Main Street, and Benally’s Honda Sedan received a glancing blow in the crash.
The driver of the truck and two passengers in the BMW were taken to the hospital by ambulance, said Cortez Police Department Lt. Andy Brock.
A long skid mark was visible in the westbound lane of Main Street approaching the intersection. Brock said speeds were estimated to be 20 mph over the 35 mph speed limit.
The pickup and BMW sustained significant damage, and the BMW caught fire. Brock said civilians grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fire, and pulled people from the car.
In February, Benally pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident, and received a 24-month deferred judgment and sentence.
If Benally does not violate any law other than minor traffic infractions, and complies with conditions of the plea deal, the guilty plea will be withdrawn and charges dismissed. As part of the plea conditions, Benally must complete a safe-driving course.