Lanie Tyrone Richardson, the man charged in the “car surfing” tragedy that killed one woman and injured another last June, accepted a plea deal on Thursday September 12, pleading no contest to felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI conviction. He also admitted to the special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury to the surviving victim, Lindsay Keebler, and to suffering a prior felony conviction and time served in prison. His original charge of second-degree murder – for the death of 26-year-old Allison Meadows – will be dismissed at his sentencing, said Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen.
Under the deal, Richardson, 29, faces 14 years in state prison – 10 years for the gross vehicular manslaughter, three years for the great bodily injury, and one year for his prison prior. He will serve the one-year term for the misdemeanor concurrently, Nguyen said. Had Richardson been found convicted of the original charge of second-degree murder, he would have faced 15 years to life.
Richardson will also have to pay restitution of an unknown amount to the victims. Once he is out of prison, his driving privileges will likely be revoked (the final decision is the DMV’s), and he won’t be able to own a gun, said Jeff Chambliss, Richardson’s lawyer. This will also count as a strike on his record, meaning that if he receives additional felony strikes in the future, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
“He’s very remorseful for what happened,” Chambliss said. “It’s a tragic situation. Hopefully it’s a life lesson. This behavior is very dangerous.”
In the early morning hours of June 6, 2012, Richardson, Meadows, Keebler, and Connor Clowers – who later told police about the events leading up to the accident – decided to go “car surfing” on East Valley Road after a night of alleged drinking and cocaine use. A stretch of the road there is known for a bump that can provide vehicle passengers with a rollercoaster-like experience. According to Clowers, Meadows and Keebler (25 at the time) sat on top of the hood and against the windshield of Richardson’s SUV, and Richardson proceeded to drive over the bump three times at around 40 miles per hour. Clowers, who told police he removed himself from the car before the initial round of “car surfing,” got back in after the three trips thinking they were done, but then Richardson and the women decided to do it once more.
At what police later determined to be between 70 and 92 miles per hour, Richardson drove over the bump with the two women on the hood. Once the car hit the bump, Meadows and Keebler went flying off in separate directions. Investigators later estimated that Meadows skidded for about 230 feet. She died of head injuries at the scene.
Richardson and Clowers lied to police after the incident, presenting themselves as Good Samaritans who found the women after they suffered a hit-and-run. Initially believing that explanation, police didn’t check Richardson for alcohol. Clowers later admitted to lying about his and Richardson’s involvement, and witnesses would go on to provide statements about Richardson’s alcohol consumption and alleged cocaine use in the hours prior.
No other people involved are expected to be prosecuted, Chambliss said.
Richardson will remain in custody, but his sentencing will be postponed a few months to allow him visitation with his family, including a young son, Chambliss said. Richardson will be sentenced by Judge Jean Dandona on January 9, 2014.