INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A Northern California man could face between four and 40 years in prison for his alleged role in a fatal pedestrian crosswalk incident on New Year's Eve weekend on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.A pre-preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 18 at the James V. Mancuso Justice Court in Incline Village for Christopher Torii Smith of Grass Valley, Calif., said Michael Bolenbaker, a deputy district attorney with Washoe County. Smith is charged with two counts of driving under the influence of a prohibited substance causing death.According to the charging document filed June 1 with the justice court, Smith had marijuana in his system at the time of the incident, and he failed to yield to the right of way of the pedestrians. The amount of marijuana in Smith's blood was identified as greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per milliliter.“After reviewing the facts in the case, (the felonies) appeared to be the appropriate charges,” Bolenbaker said Monday.Phone calls to attorneys Michael Castillo and Michael L. Becker, with the Las Vegas Defense Group, who are representing Smith, were not returned for this story.A court document indicates Becker filed a waiver of appearance for an arraignment on June 4; Judge E. Alan Tiras granted the waiver the following day.According to previous reports, Smith, who was 25 at the time of the incident, was driving a black 2006 Chevrolet pickup southbound (east toward Sand Harbor) on Highway 28 east of the Village Boulevard intersection shortly before 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30, when his truck struck Linda S. Mathis and Robert C. Mathis, who were crossing from the east side. The Mathises, who were Incline residents, both 46, died from injuries suffered.According to published reports, witness statements and evidence at the scene indicate the Mathises were in or close to the painted crosswalk located near the Tahoe Regional Transit Agency bus stop in front of Radio Shack when they were struck.Smith, who was suspected to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash, was booked into Washoe County Jail on suspicion of two counts of DUI causing death and failure to yield to pedestrians; his bail was set at $60,200. He was released from jail that weekend.In March, Castillo and Becker said they were confident that, if charges were filed, they could build a solid case once the discovery process begins, considering uncertainty exists regarding Smith's toxicology results and whether or not the Mathises were in the crosswalk.Furthermore, the apparent “inherent danger of that crosswalk” could also be called into question, Castillo said in March.According to Nevada law, each charge is considered a category B felony and carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000; each charge also carries a minimum of two years in prison.According to the law, if found guilty, any prison term is recommended to be served in a minimum-security facility, away from violent offenders.Phone calls to the Nevada Highway Patrol seeking a copy of the full investigation report have yet to be returned for this story.— Check back with tahoebonanza.com for more to this story as it develops.
July 2, 2012 | Back to: News