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Straub pleads guilty in death of Twin Falls cyclist

Magic Valley Times-News: Straub pleads guilty in death of Twin Falls cyclist

By Eric Larsen - Times-News writer | Posted: Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daniel Ryan Straub will serve up to eight years in prison for the June 25, 2009, collision that killed Twin Falls bicyclist David Webster.

Meanwhile, Straub faces a $5 million civil lawsuit filed by Webster’s widow.

The 22-year-old Twin Falls man pleaded guilty Thursday to felony vehicular manslaughter for the head-on crash that struck down Webster as he rode east of Twin Falls along 4000 North Road.

Under a plea agreement that Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said Straub, 5th District Judge Randy Stoker and Webster’s family agreed to, Straub will serve up to eight years in prison and become eligible for parole after he serves three years.

“They understand it and they attended those meetings with (Charlene Webster’s) attorney,” Loebs said of Webster’s family and widow. “She’s fully informed.”

Straub’s plea comes days before he was scheduled to appear for a Tuesday jury trial. He’ll undergo a court-ordered substance abuse assessment, after which he’s scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 23 in Twin Falls County 5th District Court.

In Idaho, a person convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter can be punished by up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

While Straub will avoid one potentially emotionally charged jury trial with the guilty plea, he may land in another, as Charlene Webster on June 7 filed a civil suit against Straub and others, seeking more than $5 million in damages.

The lawsuit names as defendants Straub, Hesper D. Straub, and “Corporations A Through Z, General Corporations AA Through DD, and their heir John Does And Jane Does I-X.” The suit names the corporations as “unknown to plaintiff at time of filing,” and to be identified at trial.

The lawsuit signed by Webster’s attorney, William R. Hollifield, seeks more than $10,000 in special damages and more than $5 million in general damages, attorney fees and other costs to be proven at trial.

“Plaintiffs incurred medical and funeral expenses to bury their husband and father,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs are entitled to compensation from Defendants, based upon their negligence, in a sum greater than $5 million.”

The lawsuit alleges that Daniel Straub’s 2004 red Chevrolet truck was passing a Pontiac Grand Am driven by Hesper Straub when it collided head-on with Webster in the eastbound lane of traffic. It alleges Webster’s death was the “direct and proximate result” of negligence of both Daniel Straub and Hesper Straub.

It also accuses Daniel Straub of driving under the influence, though no criminal DUI charge has been filed against him related to the crash, according to online court records. Court records also show no criminal charges related to the crash filed against Hesper Straub.

Allegations in the lawsuit, however, include inattentive driving, failure to obey traffic laws, grossly negligent driving, intentional reckless conduct and driving too fast for conditions by both Straubs.

No hearings are scheduled in the civil case, according to online court records.

“It’s a horrible incident and should be a warning to people to pay attention and be careful,” Loebs said of the criminal case against Daniel Straub. “With regard to Mr. Straub’s behavior, he’s going to be sentenced for that.

“It’s a dangerous world out there for bicyclists. You can’t be too careful, even when you’re doing everything right.”