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Mon, Oct. 14

Driver in fatal crash on 89 takes plea in auto theft case

Isaac Browning

Isaac Browning

PRESCOTT - Isaac Browning, accused of manslaughter in a fatal crash on Highway 89 near Chino Valley, on Monday took a plea deal in an auto theft case that will likely result in probation.

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 pickup and his father's credit cards. He was arrested in Dewey-Humboldt.

Browning is apparently headed for 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.

Police initially said they did not believe alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash; however, Browning's "blood tests showed (the presence of) both THC (marijuana) and Oxycodone," a Chino Valley police spokesman said.

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, 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."

"But he would have to open the door," Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley said.

If the charge remains a felony, Browning could face two years in prison, but if she were to designate it a misdemeanor, which she said was likely, Ainley could sentence him to probation.

She asked for a presentence report to help decide that issue, but Napper said Browning might have to admit things that could hurt him at trial during an interview for that report, so he would have to advise Browning not to answer.

Ainley agreed to accept a memo presented by the attorneys to give her guidance in making the decision.

Browning remains out on bond during that time.

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