Bail reduced for man in fatal accident case | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Bail reduced for man in fatal accident case

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A 21-year-old man charged with hitting and killing a high school freshman while allegedly driving under the influence had his bail lowered and might return to Massachusetts.

Jesse Whitworth appeared in El Dorado County Superior Court on Thursday for a bail review hearing. He has been charged with gross vehicle manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in prison after allegedly hitting and killing 15-year-old Marissa Bassett with his car while driving under the influence down Fifteenth Street.

Bail was reduced to $100,000.

Before the matter was heard, attorneys from both sides met in chambers with Judge Jerald Lasarow for roughly 45 minutes. The defense spoke of a possible settlement which will have to wait until medical records arrive.

David Weiner, a West Slope attorney representing Whitworth, submitted about 10 character letters from Whitworth’s family and friends. Based on his client’s youth and lack of criminal history, Weiner asked Lasarow to reduce bail from $150,000 to somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000.

If he made bail, Whitworth would likely return to his home state of Massachusetts to live with family.

Donna Whitworth and son Ryan Whitworth traveled from the East Coast to attend the hearing.

“My son is a very decent human being and he wouldn’t want to hurt a soul,” Donna Whitworth told the court. “He has a very good reputation of being a caring person.”

On Sept. 2, Bassett, 15, was walking to a nearby bus stop for her first day at South Tahoe High School. Jesse Whitworth was driving home with friends after spending several hours at casinos. Bassett was hit by Whitworth’s car and died from head injuries.

Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara argued against a significant bail reduction. The prosecutor said there would be no assurances that Jesse Whitworth would not get behind the wheel. O’Hara noted the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s slim ties to South Lake Tahoe.

Before the accident, Whitworth, who takes anti-depressant medication, was fired from his job and evicted from his house, O’Hara said.

Conditions of bail included Jesse Whitworth not driving, not possessing alcohol, not visiting drinking establishments. Lasarow implemented a waiver of extradition, which virtually promises Jesse Whitworth’s appearance in court, and a search and seizure clause, meaning police can visit unannounced to search for alcohol.

‘Yes I do your honor,” Jesse Whitworth said in accepting the term of his bail.

Outside the courtroom, Whitworth’s family said he is a kind person who would never intentionally hurt anyone.

His mother met with Jackie Hardie, the mother of Bassett’s best friend Ashley Mora, after the hearing.

The two women wept in each others arms.

“My son wanted to become an (emergency medical technician),” Whitworth said of her son. “He used to work with children at a kid’s club. I swear he is a kind person.”

Whitworth said her son was trying to start a business in Tahoe and bought a new car for the enterprise. She had hopes that her son would return to school.

“For whatever reason they needed another angel … everybody will get through this,” Hardie said.

Jesse Whitworth will next appear in court Oct. 31 for a hearing before a preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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