Man sentenced to 1 year for death of unborn baby

By Chris Haxel

A Manhattan man will spend a year in the Riley County jail for his role in a crash that resulted in the death of a woman’s unborn child.

Ryan Routson, 33 at the time of his arrest, was sentenced Monday for causing a 2014 crash after he failed to yield at a stop sign at the intersection of Tuttle Creek Boulevard and Tuttle Terrace.

He originally was charged with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence, and aggravated battery while driving under the influence, both felonies.

Kansas’ murder and manslaughter statutes apply to “unborn children,” defined in the law as living individual organisms in utero in any stage of gestation.

As part of a plea agreement, Routson pleaded no contest to aggravated battery, a felony, and vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor. He also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge for possessing drug paraphernalia.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing in Riley County District Court, Judge David Stutzman sentenced Routson to 24 months probation for the aggravated battery charge, with an underlying 14-month prison sentence to be served if Routson violates his parole.

Stutzman issued a 12-month jail sentence for the vehicular homicide, and a concurrent six-month jail sentence for possessing drug paraphernalia.

Before Stutzman announced Rouston’s sentence, Riley County assistant prosecutor Wes Garrison acknowledged that people frequently run a stop sign or make a “California stop” without any real consequences.

“But for luck, or if you want to call it chance, nothing usually happens,” he said. “The state feels there should be consequences for those actions when they are so devastating.”

The court also heard an emotional statement from Megan Hartford, the woman whose vehicle collided with Routson’s.

“I cursed you,” she said, speaking directly to Routson. She said that after the wreck her “whole being was full of overwhelming sadness.”

But later, Hartford said, her “heart opened up” and she forgave him. “It was not done maliciously and it does not mean you are a bad person.”

Routson, himself emotional after Hartford’s statement, turned to face her and apologized to her and her family.

“I do understand that this incident was my fault,” he said. “I take full responsibility.”

Before reaching the plea agreement, the trial had been on hold while prosecutors appealed Stutzman’s decision to suppress the results of a blood test that indicated the presence of marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs in Routson’s blood stream.

Stutzman ruled that prosecutors cannot present the results of the blood test to jurors because it fails “to show whether the presence (of drugs) is from traces of past use or from contemporaneous incapacitation.”

Without a “reference point to the concentration of a drug in a defendant’s body,” Stutzman wrote, “jurors are left with nothing but speculation in deciding whether they think the presence of drugs had anything to do with the accident.”

While the matter became moot once Routson reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, his drug use was referenced several times during the hearing.

His attorney, Britain Stites, said Routson had smoked marijuana about seven hours before driving, and was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.

He also said the levels of amphetamines in Routson’s system may have been a false positive resulting from prescription medication. But Routson acknowledged he has had problems with drugs in the past, and said he’s dealt with a lot of negative feelings about himself.

“I’ve never gotten anything positive from (drugs),” he said. “Only negative things.”

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