Posts Tagged ‘Meth’

Jakscht Taking Witness Stand

It took over 2 years, but I’m thrilled by the verdict!

Michael Jakscht, age 49 was found guilty on four counts of manslaughter.  You may remember Mr. Jakscht from a previous blog post HERE.

It was March 2010 and he was the truck driver who drove his 12 ton trash 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, AZ.  Yes, I said the motorcyclists were all stopped waiting on the traffic light when Jakscht ran over the group.

It was a horrific and gruesome crash scene.  Four people were killed, and five others were injured in the accident.  Methamphetamine was found in Jakscht’s system at the time of the crash. His lawyer, however, had argued that Jakscht wasn’t under the influence at the time of the accident, and that the incident was caused by a mechanical failure in the truck.

Accident Scene – March 2010

Jakscht’s first trial took place in 2011 and it ended with a hung jury deadlocked at 9 to 3 for acquittal.  Fortunately the Maricopa County attorney’s office (Attorney Bill Montgomery) chose to retry the case, and Jakscht was recently found guilty on four counts of manslaughter and on five counts of aggravated assault, one count of endangerment imminent death, and three counts of endangerment physical injury.

Nothing can bring back the four motorcyclist who were killed, but I hope the family’s of the deceased get some satisfaction in knowing that Mr. Jakscht is being held accountable for his actions.  Sentencing is set for November 16 at 8:30am.

UPDATE: December 5,1012 – Mr. Jakscht was sentenced November 16th to 26 years in prison by Judge Joseph Welty. Under Arizona’s Truth In Sentencing Law Jakscht will do about 230 months. His release date will be late in the year 2031 or early in 2032.

Photos courtesy of ABC Channel 15 and AZFamily.com

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Michael Jakscht

Two weeks ago a news flash zipped across my iMac screen about eight Phoenix-based motorcycle riders involved in an accident with a sanitation truck. Knowing that in about a month I planned to be riding in the same area of Arizona, the accident caught my attention.

If you’re unaware of the incident; on Thursday, March 25th a group of motorcyclists who were taking advantage of the nice weather, were literally run down by a Blue Sky Sanitation truck driven by Michael Jakscht, 46.  The truck ran into the group of motorcyclists on Carefree Highway who were stopped at a stoplight, killing four of them and injuring five others.  Photos from the scene are disturbing due to some motorcycles bursting into flames under the truck while others scattered flaming wreckage across the intersection.

Sure it’s true that motorcycles can’t be made as objectively safe (crush zones, front and side air bags, etc.) as cars—however, no motorist (in a car or on a motorcycle) expects to be run down while sitting idle at a stop light!  Blue Sky Sanitation is a very small, limited liability company headquartered in Fountain Hills, AZ which employs about four people.  At the time of the accident witnesses reported that there were no outwardly signs the truck driver being impaired.  In fact, one witnessed stated that the driver commented how he was distracted doing paperwork.  Within hours it was reported that Mr. Jakscht had a string of prior speeding and over-weight traffic violations.

Blue Sky Sanitation Truck

But, there is even more to the story.  On April 6th police arrested Mr. Jakscht on suspicion of being under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash, and booked him on four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and seven counts of endangerment. According to police, the initial toxicology tests on blood drawn from Mr. Jakscht on the day of the crash show he had the illegal drug methamphetamine in his system.  He is currently being held in the 4th Avenue jail on a $1M bond and his initial hearing is set for April 13th.

Motorcyclists who died as a result of the crash were Daniel Butler, 35; Clyde Nachand, 67; Stephen Punch, 52; and Dale Downs-Totonchi, 47.  Phoenix Fire Capt. Ernie Lizarraga, 52, who was part of the riding group remains hospitalized suffering from injuries sustained in the crash.  In addition, Jason Anania, 48, is recovering at home from a shattered leg and bruised back.

When people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they take on a responsibility to ensure their action does not put other people in danger.  So we have a “tweeked” truck driver who ignored his responsibility and innocent motorcyclists were in my view murdered.  The families of those victims can and will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit, but I’m sure Blue Sky Sanitation and Mr. Jakscht will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid accepting responsibility.  While it’s how our litigious society works I do hope these people are brought to justice.

The death of a family member in an accident like this has to be a horrible experience.  I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and hope for a full recovery of those injured.

Additional news reports HERE, and video coverage by ABC HERE.  I’ve previously written about “trucker bombs” HERE.

Photo’s courtesy of Associated Press/NPR and ABC.

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Monte Stiles

Monte Stiles

Recently I had a unique opportunity to hear Monte Stiles speak, who for over 26 years as a state and federal drug prosecutor witnessed the darkest sides of society.  He has worked hundreds of drug, gang and murder cases in the court system which is littered with grieving families of every stripe.  The years of prosecution took a toll as he found it more and more difficult to see anything positive about society and depression set in.  But, through an interest in photography, he rediscovered the wonders of people, places and life and shares a message of hope and inspiration.

Stiles graduated from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and was hired as a deputy prosecutor in Idaho’s Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.   In 1984, he was appointed as the Supervising Attorney of the new Ada County Drug Prosecution Unit.   Soon after, Stiles was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to work with the federal drug task force.   In 1987, he was hired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to run the federal Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force – a group of agents and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute high-level drug trafficking organizations.   In 1995, the Stiles family moved to Washington D.C. where he was on detail for the Department of Justice (DOJ).   While there, he served as Special Counsel to the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.   He later returned to Idaho and resumed his duties with the Federal Drug Task Force.  He has taught advanced narcotics and money laundering for the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina.   He is also an adjunct professor at Boise State University, where he teaches on the Criminal Justice Department.

Stiles provided a number of colorful legal stories while reviewing his photography techniques.  One of the more interesting was about Dwayne “Shadow” Fitzen , of the Aliens MC Nomad Motorcycle Club.  Fitzen, considered a motorcycle gang member by LEO was convicted of cocaine distribution in 1992.  He was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In 2004, after serving 12 years the feds put Fitzen (unescorted) on a Greyhound bus in Waseca, Minn., bound for the federal prison in Lompoc, Ca.  Fitzen never check himself in and disappeared in Las Vegas, after withdrawing $12,000 from a bank account. This little-known furlough program, called “voluntary surrenders” was started by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1996 to save money and relieve prison crowding.  Greyhound knew nothing of the program or the dangers it put passengers under and was outraged.  Even Sen. Joseph Biden worked in 2005 to find out how many prisoners escaped during these so called “bus trips”, but was unsuccessful in getting information from the Justice Department. A press release from the U.S. Marshals Service provides more information.

More recently Stiles has obtained the first federal jury trial and conviction of a Firefighter/arsonist on BLM lands in Idaho.  In addition, as part of Operation Mountain Lion, an 18-month investigation which netted 50 suspects in Idaho and three other states all are serving time in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession of firearms.  Though still a practicing trial attorney, he spends much more of his time seeking out beautiful landscapes, climbing mountains, tracking wildlife, and capturing it all with his camera.

It was an inspiring message of hope at a time when much of the news in this world is fairly dark.

UPDATE: September 21, 2009 —  I’m now uncertain of the accuracy of the press statement above (or in my comment below) which states Mr. Fitzen was a member of the Aliens MC Nomads Motorcycle Club.  As a result I’ve corrected the post and stricken out the text.  Mr. Fitzen appears to have rode with a variety of motorcycle clubs, but his actual membership in any club is in question.  Much thanks to Larry Neuberger for providing corrections.

Photo courtesy Monte Stiles web site.

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