Victim of Drunken Driving

Cleared of Charges in Crash

AUBURN, Wash. -- A judge ruled yesterday that a woman who videotaped the moments before a drunken driving crash that killed everyone in the car except her should not be prosecuted for her alleged role in the accident.

Judge Patrick Burns dismissed charges of being an accomplice to reckless driving and an accomplice to drunken driving filed against Teresa Hedlund, 30. But she is still charged with two misdemeanors -- furnishing alcohol to a minor and giving tobacco to a minor.

Prosecutors alleged that Hedlund encouraged Thomas Stewart, 22, to drive recklessly while drunk, in part by videotaping the July 2001 ride in which he and five others died. At one point in the video, Stewart says, "Watch me driving. You gotta record this [expletive]!"

The video also includes footage from a party that Hedlund hosted for the people in the car the day of the crash. On the tape, Stewart says he's "liquored up," and Hedlund's 4-year-old daughter has a cigarette dangling from her mouth. The only passenger who hadn't been drinking, Jayme Vomenici, 18, has a panicked look on her face as she shouts an obscenity-laced order for Stewart to slow down or stop. The video ends two seconds before the crash.

Burns said Hedlund's behavior had been "abhorrent," but "I think being in an automobile and having your car wrapped around a pillar and spending months in rehabilitation constitutes being a victim." State law does not allow a victim of a crime to be charged as an accomplice in that same crime, the judge ruled.

Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery objected, and Burns agreed to have his ruling reviewed by another judge. He decided to continue the trial until Monday.

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* LOS ANGELES -- FBI agents interviewed and then released Megan McRee, an American woman who had been deported from Russia by officials who alleged she had communicated with Islamic extremists and had proposed attacks on Hollywood.

* TAMPA -- Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheridan Ferrell II was sentenced to six years in military prison for stealing four laptop computers from the center that oversees operations in the Middle East.

* SAN FRANCISCO -- Lawyers presented closing arguments in a federal trial that could land Ed Rosenthal, a guru of the pro-marijuana movement, in prison for the rest of his life, even though California deems his actions legal.

* RENO, Nev. -- Lyle Montgomery was charged with child abuse for allegedly leaving his 3-year-old stepson, Jonathan Jacob Corpuz, at a Utah store. Police said he is a possible suspect in the disappearance of the boy's mother, Jeannette Acord. Police said they feared for her safety because of evidence taken from the Reno home she shared with new husband Montgomery.

-- From news services