A Denver man pleaded guilty Friday to vehicular homicide in connection with a June car accident that killed a Clark man.
Daniel Robbins, 31, appeared in Grand County District Court to enter his guilty plea in front of District Judge Paul McLimans. Robbins pleaded guilty to the Class 4 felony charge, as well as speeding 25 to 39 mph over the limit. In exchange, manslaughter and reckless driving charges will be dropped if McLimans accepts the plea agreement.
Robbins was driving his 2004 Dodge Viper on Colorado Highway 9 south of Krem-mling on June 10 when he lost control, hitting a guardrail and killing 22-year-old passenger Jeffery Harris, according to accident reports.
Robbins was offered a plea agreement Oct. 14 despite the strong objections of the victim's family.
Harris' parents, Dan and Doral Harris, his 2-year-old daughter, Jessa, and her mother, Kelly Hisey, and Hisey's parents were prepared to tell McLimans on Friday why they opposed the plea.
However, two hours before Robbins was scheduled to appear in court, Tom Williams, Hisey's stepfather, received a call from Grand County District Attorney Dan Edwards saying McLimans would not hear their comments until Robbins' sentencing hearing.
McLimans said he was only tentatively accepting the plea and would decide at the sentencing whether to accept it.
If McLimans accepted the plea offer, Robbins would serve a maximum of 90 days in jail, be ordered to complete 300 hours public service, serve an undetermined amount of supervised probation, write a letter of apology to the victim's family, agree not to drive for a year after his sentencing date, complete a safe driver education course within three months of re-obtaining a driver's license, and pay for an advertisement to be published in Grand and Routt County newspapers apologizing for Harris' death, admitting to reckless driving and discouraging speeding.
The Harris family said the proposed punishment wouldn't fit the crime.
"We were disappointed that we couldn't say anything today, because we do have something to say," Williams said.
"But we will have something to tell (McLimans) the next time."
The family had prepared several statements and a petition opposing the plea offer that they said between 75 and 80 Steamboat Springs residents signed within three hours.
"It's unprofessional in my mind the way this went down," Dan Harris said. "It was our time to make our feelings known."
Robbins' Steamboat attorney, Charles Feldmann, told McLimans that based on his investigation and using Colorado State Patrol estimates, Robbins was driving only 80 or 90 mph right before the accident happened.
Feldmann said Robbins was pleading guilty to speeding faster than he actually was, which he told his client.
However, Robbins wanted to accept the plea, even though Feldmann wanted the court to know he thought a jury would have been able to find that Robbins was going about 15 mph over the posted 65 mph limit, which is not considered reckless driving.
"Our expert's preliminary projection estimated (Robbins) hit the guardrail at 64 mph, which would have placed him at speeding around 80 mph," he said.
"That is only 15 mph over the speed limit. A jury could conclude that going 15 mph over the speed limit is not reckless.
"We clocked people out there going well over 80 mph on that point of the road. Careless driving would be a more appropriate charge," Feldmann said. Robbins' sentencing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 27 in Grand County District Court.