In March 2010 a trash truck driver named Michael Jakscht (photo above) ran his twelve ton truck through a pack of eight motorcycles carrying nine people at a stop light at the intersection of 27th Avenue and Carefree Highway near I-17 in Phoenix. The collision killed four people and injured five more. After 29 months and two trials the survivors and casualties of that horrifying moment now only have to wait another month for justice.
Jakscht was found guilty last week of four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and four counts of endangerment. If Judge Joseph C. Welty wants to play hardball and runs the sentences consecutively, Jakscht could spend as much as 157 years in prison. He will learn his fate September 21.
All of the victims were members of a meetup group called Krusers. The meetup organized rides for people who wanted to make friends in the wind.
At least one of the motorcycles caught fire after Jakscht ran over them. Three riders were trapped under the truck and died in the flames. They were Clyde R. Nachand, Stephen Punch and Daniel L. Butler. A fourth rider, Dayle Downs-Tonotchi, was evacuated from the scene by helicopter and died the next day.
Jakscht never applied his brakes. Police reports stated that he heart was pounding, he was squinting, his hands fidgeted with a water bottle and that he could not walk a straight line or participate in field sobriety tests. At trial his attorney argued that he had trouble holding the water bottle because he had burned his hands on a fire extinguisher while trying to put out the flames. He squinted because the hot fire extinguisher had exploded in his face. His heart was pounding from adrenaline and he staggered because the police told him to walk a straight line right next to the bodies of the victims. It was Jakscht’s second accident in two weeks.
Was Jakscht Loaded
He was also given a blood test which was later interpreted to mean that he was “under the influence” of methamphetamine at the time of the accident. But he was acquitted after his first trial partly because prosecutors could not prove that he was legally intoxicated. Although the standard by which a person can be found to be intoxicated on alcohol is set by statute, there is no standard to determine whether a driver is intoxicated on methamphetamine or simply has the drug in his system. His lawyers argued that the collision was a terrible accident caused by brake failure and that Jakscht had not used crank but only “diet pills.”
Jakscht’s second trial began in June. Last week the Maricopa County jury decided that the truck driver was voluntarily intoxicated and that he acted in “reckless disregard” of the consequences of that intoxication. Neither the verdict nor the sentence are likely to comfort the victims but at least next month their long ordeal will find a legal end.