After a New Mexico man ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the traffic death of 3rd District Judge Anthony Quinn, the Salt Lake County district attorney says legislators may consider changing the law so the punishment better matches the crime.
David E. Bertelson, 79, of Albuquerque, quietly pleaded guilty May 27 in connection with Quinn’s 2013 death in Mill Creek Canyon. Bertelson is now halfway through his six months’ probation sentence.
Bertelson pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor count of reckless driving. The crime is punishable by up to six months in jail. Holladay Justice Court records show that in addition to probation, which expires in late November, Bertelson was ordered to pay a $670 fine.
District Attorney Sim Gill said Wednesday he understood there were no "extenuating" circumstances — such as alcohol or drugs — that elevated the fatal crash to a more severe level.
Gill’s office recused itself from the matter since Quinn was a judge in its district. Gill passed the case along to the Davis County attorney’s office, which also concluded it could not file a felony or class A misdemeanor, before sending the case to the Holladay City prosecutor.
"It didn’t fit into the language of homicide," Gill said, pointing out how this case, along with others, illuminates a deficit in the law. Thus, there has been "some discussion on the Hill" about addressing that deficit and considering a legal remedy that weighs the loss of life more heavily, Gill said.
The 60-year-old Quinn was riding his bike up the canyon about 1:40 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2013, when Bertelson struck him.
The Unified Police Department determined that Quinn was riding on the correct, right-hand side of the road while Bertelson was headed down. At the time, UPD said Bertelson, perhaps distracted by the fall scenery, veered across the oncoming lane and into the shoulder, where he struck Quinn.
An exact cause for the crash, though, was never determined, UPD Lt. Justin Hoyal said Wednesday.
The culmination of the case, despite Quinn’s celebrity in judicial circles, came without notification from either prosecutors or the UPD, which investigated the matter.
"As a judge, [Quinn] always strove tirelessly to be fair and be prepared," his obituary read. "Despite his disciplined and hard-working persona, he was always quick with a joke, kinds and generous to those who knew him well."
Quinn was survived by his wife and three children.
Gill said Quinn’s case took seven months to reach court because it moved from his office to Davis County, back to his office, then to Holladay, which filed the case May 22.
The Holladay prosecutor’s office did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.
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