A jury trial has been scheduled for later this month in the case of a crash that claimed the life of a Fennimore man earlier this year.
Donald J. Martin, Jr., 60, Bagley, will appear in Grant County Circuit Court for a status conference at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8. A jury trial is tentatively scheduled for April 21 and April 28.
Martin is charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle without a license (second offense), an class U misdemeanor. He is also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer, a class A misdemeanor. In addition, he is charged with illegal vehicle operation carrying junk vehicle, a forfeiture.
Martin made his initial court appearance on March 16. He pleaded not guilty to all charges during that appearance and signed a signature bond.
Robert A. Kuhn, 48, Fennimore, died as a result of a crash at Highway 61 and Circle Road on Jan. 29.
The crash occurred when two unsecured bales of hay on a trailer being pulled by a truck driven by Martin came off the trailer and landed on the southbound lane of Highway 61, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
Kuhn was driving south on Highway 61 when his car hit one of the bales and then went into the northbound lane. Kuhn’s car hit a pickup truck driven by Nathan M. Harris, 42, Lancaster, head-on.
Kuhn was pronounced dead at the scene by Grant County Coroner Ron Sturmer.
Martin was not involved in the crash and left the area, but was located later.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office referred a charge of knowingly operating a motor vehicle without a valid license – causing death, a class H felony, to the Grant County District Attorney’s office.
Due to a technicality, the District Attorney’s office was unable to purse the felony charge. Grant County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jack Johnson shed light on the situation Tuesday morning.
“What happened was, in the statute book, there are different versions,” he explained. “If you are operating after revocation and you cause someone’s death, you can face those charges.
“By statute, this crash falls under operating a commercial motor vehicle. When the legislature passed the law involving the operating a motor vehicle without a valid license – causing death, it did not include commercial motor vehicles.”
Johnson is not taking the oversight lightly.
“That is a fight I am working on,” he said. “I have contacted our area legislators to try to get that changed.”
If allowed by statute, the District Attorney’s office would have proceeded with the felony charge, Johnson said.
“That is the worst part of it,” he said. “Their hands are tied because that is the law.
“I feel bad because it is not right. It is something that we have to live with until they change the law and include that into it.”