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4:28 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Man accused in fatal Highway 89 wreck gets probation in car theft case

PRESCOTT - Isaac Browning, who is accused of manslaughter in a fatal crash on Highway 89 near Chino Valley, on Monday was sentenced to probation in an unrelated auto theft case.

Browning, 19, pleaded guilty to theft of a means of transportation, a class 6 undesignated felony, as a condition of the plea agreement. Police said he took his mother's car and his father's credit cards. He was arrested in Dewey-Humboldt.

Browning may go to trial in the other case, in which he is accused of crossing the double yellow line on Highway 89 in his pickup and running head-on into an SUV, killing a husband and wife in June 2011. He has been charged with manslaughter and DUI in that case.

A grand jury in June indicted Browning on two counts of manslaughter, one count of criminal damage, and two counts of driving under the influence.

In court Monday for sentencing on the auto theft charge, his father read a statement in which he said that the family had called police for help locating his son when the car was stolen, but instead, he was arrested and charged with a felony.

"We did not consider ourselves victims at the time, nor do we now," his father said.

Browning's attorney, John Napper, said, "It's cases like this that almost create a disincentive for parents to call law enforcement when it involves their children.

"I don't think (Browning) even realized he was committing a criminal act," he added. "He made a mistake. He wasn't robbing a bank, he wasn't assaulting someone. He took his parents' car."

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley decided to leave the offense undesignated, meaning it would not be treated as a felony.

"I don't think it needs to be a lengthy term of probation," she said, and sentenced him to one year of probation.

In the other case, she set the next court date, which includes a possible change of plea, for January.

His attorney, John Napper, said a condition of the agreement on the theft charge was that the state "agreed not to use this prior admission to impeach him at trial" on the manslaughter and DUI charges.

Deputy County Attorney Cynthia Spitler clarified that statement, saying, "If the defendant got on the (witness) stand and said, 'I've never been in trouble before,' then I'd use it."

Browning remains out on bond.