PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Jerry Sanstead is facing charges of endangerment, aggravated assault, and manslaughter as a result of the deadly crash on Loop 101 near McDowell Road earlier this week. 

[RELATED: Mom of police officer killed by distracted driver: 'There's no text that is so important']

Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend was killed in the crash. He was conducting a routine traffic stop. The driver he pulled over was also injured in the collision. 

Sanstead bonded out of jail early Thursday morning. 

[RELATED: Remembering fallen Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend]

"To be manslaughter, it has to be a conscious disregard of the substantial risk. The question is, is looking at your phone while driving a substantial risk? Given the number of people doing it, perhaps it's not substantial," said Jeffrey Mehrens, a defense attorney not affiliated with the case.

Mehrens said he's never seen or heard of a distracted driving case charged as manslaughter.

[READ MORE: Driver who hit, killed Salt River officer while allegedly texting posts bond]

"I think this is a civil suit. I don't think this is a crime, I think at best it's negligent homicide," Mehrens said. "But no, I don't think it's manslaughter, it's not a substantial risk to check your phone." 

According to court documents, Sanstead told investigators that he was on his way home from work and texting his wife about evening plans. He explained that he was reading messages and responding using the voice-to-text feature. 

[RELATED: Ducey supporting statewide texting and driving ban]

"Everybody does this. This is not a substantial risk. People check their stereos, people turn the air down, turn the air up, turn the heat on, people look at their phones. Occasionally, an accident is going to happen, that's what accidents are. This is a civil suit, this is not a crime," Mehrens said. 

Sanstead also told investigators that he knew he shouldn't have been on his phone. 

There are no laws in the state of Arizona that ban texting while driving, but Mehrens believes that could change. 

"I think this was the tipping point and the law will change after this." 

Sanstead's lawyer has not returned our request for a statement at this time. 

 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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(3) comments

Hersh5

[angry] What is wrong with this man! Distracted driving has been an issue for years! Everyone knows it's a distraction! And let's not forget that it wasn't a simple peek, he crossed two lanes of traffic to hit this officer and the car that he pulled over. How is this attorney making such dumb statements? [censored]

JustinP

This defense attorney is crazy..... Per ARS 13-1104. Second degree murder; classification

A. A person commits second degree murder if without premeditation:

3. Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of recklessly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child.

Since everyone knows texting while driving is stupid and can cause loss of life, that fits this portion of the statute. Forget manslaughter, think 2nd degree murder - a more serious offense.

ObeyLaws

Justin Picposting - Just curious where you went to law school??

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