Teen driver charged in fatal Rifle incident
The teenager who was behind the wheel of a vehicle off of which a friend fatally fell in April has been charged, but prosecutors are hopeful that the outcome will be more educational than punishment.
The 17-year-old was charged with careless driving resulting in death, a traffic offense, 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia confirmed on Tuesday.
The teen was behind the wheel when Rifle High School senior Kyle Scholla was sitting on the hood of the car in the Rifle Wal-Mart parking lot on April 1. Scholla fell from the car when the driver pulled out of a parking space. He died from his injuries April 9.
While the driver will be charged, prosecutors will not pursue penalties such as revocation of driver’s license, a fine or jail time.
Instead, Caloia said the hope is to get the teen into the diversion program, which offers a chance to escape the criminal justice system to young, first-time offenders facing low-level charges. Entering the diversion program will come with the requirement that the teen travel to various high schools and share his experience, with the hope of discouraging other teens from making a similar mistake.
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“I think everyone recognizes that his was a tragic accident that a more careful thought process and behavior on the part of these kids could have prevented,” Caloia said, “but young people being young people do make stupid mistakes, and sometimes it doesn’t end well.”
In the days after his death, friends and teachers remembered Scholla as a selfless young man with a steady smile and positive outlook.
At the time, Caloia said she wanted to review the police report and consult with the family before deciding on charges. After doing so, Caloia said she did feel it was necessary to address the issue through the diversion process.
Law enforcement had originally described the events that led to Scholla’s death as “car surfing,” an activity commonly thought of as one in which someone stands on top of a moving vehicle. Rifle Police Chief John Dyer later clarified that the event appeared to be more “spontaneous goofing around” than “thrill-seeking.”
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