Jacksonville Man Sentenced to Probation, Stayed Jail Time for Failing to Report Fatal 2021 Crash

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 29, 2023 at 2:47pm

A two-year-old case where a Jacksonville man was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash concluded this morning in Morgan County Circuit Court.

32-year-old Edward E. Baldwin III of the 600 block of South East Street pleaded guilty to an amended Class A misdemeanor charge of failure to report an accident, which was filed with the court by the Morgan County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Baldwin was originally cited for Class 1 felony failure to report an accident causing a death, Class 2 felony failure to report an accident causing injury, and Class 4 leaving the scene of an accident causing an injury and/or death.

Baldwin was accused of leaving the scene of a crash in the 400 block of South East Street on the evening of April 13, 2021. Baldwin’s vehicle is said to have collided with a motorcycle driven by 22-year-old Richard J. Gregory. Gregory died in an area hospital nearly two weeks later.

Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner says the negotiated plea was reached after a lengthy process. “It was a process of a lot of back-and-forth negotiations between the defense and our office. And it was kind of a recognition that the defendant did not cause this accident, and his criminal liability was strictly for actions that occurred after the accident happened, and that had he acted differently, it would not have changed this tragic outcome.”

Visiting Scott County Judge David Cherry approved the terms of the plea as submitted by the State’s Attorney’s Office and sentenced Baldwin to 2 years of probation and 180 days in the Morgan County Jail, which was stayed and would be vacated upon his fulfilling the terms of his probation.

Baldwin was ordered to not consume alcohol or cannabis during the course of his probation, complete 30 hours of community service, maintain full-time employment and pay a $500 fine plus fees and court costs.

Prior to sentencing, the court heard a victim impact statement from Richard J. Gregory’s aunt Leanne Dean dated February 22, 2022, in which said she is positive neither of these young men planned on participating in the event that would change their lives forever, and neither intended any harm.

She went on to say she holds no ill will to Mr. Baldwin or his family, and that she was certain they were struggling with the outcome as much as hers has. Turner says the feelings expressed by Gregory’s family weighed heavily on the final outcome.

It was nice that the [Gregory] family recognized that the tragic outcome in this was not the fault of the defendant. But also expressed that actions have consequences and when you have an accident that causes property damage or personal injury, what you do after the accident can be criminal if you fail to report it.

Thankfully in this particular case, we had no doubts that sometimes you have a situation where there is an accident and you think to yourself- man if they would have just called a minute earlier, or five minutes earlier. That was not the case in this particular case because there were bystanders that saw it happen and immediately reported it to emergency medical services and so forth, so that wasn’t the case.”

The financial obligations were waived per a 404 filing for indigence. Turner says the motion filed by Public Defender Tom Piper was in compliance with a recently changed legal procedure. “The Supreme Court has determined that in the past indigent defendants always had the right to file a motion to have those waived based on their inability to pay. Recently they have changed that from having the right to file it to defendants that are represented by a public defender, that public defender is now required to file that motion. And upon that motion, if the court finds that the defendant is indigent then they vacate the fines and costs.

At least theoretically, and I think it works the way it’s supposed to for probably ninety percent of the time, the public defender is only supposed to represent people that are indigent, so the thought being, if they qualify for the public defender, they probably qualify for the waiver of fines, fees, and costs.”

Before adjourning the hearing this morning, Judge Cherry ordered Baldwin to seek and attend counseling, saying that it would be a “terrible shame to lose two people to this [incident].”

-Ben Cox contributed to this story.