A 29-year-old Cedar Rapids man pleaded guilty last week to vehicular homicide in the death of an Alburnett woman in March 2012 and faces up to 12 years in prison.
Jermonda Pledge pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle -reckless driving, a felony, and driving while barred, a misdemeanor, Jan. 2, in Linn County District Court. He also originally was charged with homicide by vehicle – OWI but that charge, which carries a 25 year prison term, was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Sentencing is set Jan. 23, in Linn County District Court.
According to a criminal complaint, Pledge sped through a red light and lost control of his vehicle near the intersection of County Home Road and C Avenue Extension March 18, 2012. His girlfriend and passenger, Angela Kuehl, 29, of Alburnett, was ejected from the passenger side window as the car rolled over several times. Kuehl died at the scene from her injuries.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said Pledge admitted to smoking marijuana earlier that day and drinking alcohol that night of the accident, but the crash occurred about 3:30 a.m., he passed a field sobriety test about 6 a.m., and by the time a warrant was issued to take his blood test about 9:15 a.m., his blood alcohol content level was .00. The legal limit is .08.
Pledge during the plea hearing admitted to driving at a high rate of speed, 75 mph, and being reckless that night.
Maybanks said there was a small amount of THC found in his blood but lab officials in Indiana, where it was sent for further testing, said it wasn’t possible to say if that amount caused an impairment.
“They said there was too many variables to consider like how much he smoked that night and what was the grade of marijuana – those would play a factor,” Maybanks said.
Maybanks said it would be difficult to prove that he was under the influence to the point of impairment, which is required to prove the homicide by vehicle – OWI charge. Witnesses at the scene said Pledge didn’t seem impaired and even a deputy couldn’t say he was impaired.
Maybanks said Pledge, who was out of the car when authorities arrived, denied driving the car at first but he had injuries consistent with the accident, and the crime lab identified his blood in several locations on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The plea agreement was the best outcome for this case.