Driver gets jail time
April 28, 2009
A Kamas man who collided with a bicyclist when he swerved his pickup truck at riders on the Mirror Lake Highway was ordered to serve 30 days in jail Monday.
Alexander Jason Barto, who was driving the truck, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in March. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and more than $13,000 in restitution, complete 50 hours of community service and possibly attend an anger management course.
"Thirty days is an appropriate jail sentence," 3rd District Court Judge Bruce Lubeck said Monday. "There ought to be some jail time here."
Barto, who is in his 40s, was ordered to report to the Summit County jail by May 12 at 7 p.m.
Salt Lake County resident Shane Dunleavy suffered a sprained wrist and road rash when his bicycle collided with Barto’s truck Aug 2.
Barto insists he only wished to "communicate a courtesy message" to the riders.
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He has acknowledged he swerved at the bicyclists to remind them they should ride single file instead of two abreast on the highway.
"I don’t think I’ve really had a chance to share how terrible I feel about this," Barto said in court Monday. "I just tried to say to the cyclists, ‘How about riding single file guys?’"
Barto never "intended to run anyone over," he said.
Still, he pleaded guilty to felony assault, Lubeck replied.
"You’ve entered the plea, so I’m assuming you’re taking more responsibility than what you are saying here today," Lubeck said.
Summit County prosecutor Paul Christensen asked for a 60-day jail term for Barto.
"Easily, Mr. Dunleavy could have been dead," Christensen said in court. "It completely destroyed a $12,000 bicycle."
Aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, could carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.
But no jail time was justified in this case, Barto attorney Greg Skordas said.
"I think there were plenty of opportunities for each side to terminate this whole encounter," Skordas said. "This was a situation that escalated both ways."
Barto is perhaps best known for campaigning unsuccessfully for a seat on the Kamas City Council in 2007. He had also expressed interest in running for mayor this year.
"I know [Barto] to be a very, very, very good man This was not a violent, premeditated or aggressive act," Skordas said. "He’s always been apologetic and has always accepted responsibility."
Barto pulled over when he realized Dunleavy was hurt.
"[Barto] was confronted and perhaps even assaulted himself," Skordas said.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss nine additional charges stemming from the confrontation.
Barto had faced two felony aggravated-assault charges and eight other misdemeanor charges for operating a vehicle near a bicycle and for failing to register his truck.
"I deeply regret that I took that course of action, and I’ve been sick about it since that happened," Barto said in court. "I’ve been mischaracterized."
A 2005 law suggests drivers in Utah stay three feet from bicyclists when it’s safe to do so.
‘There are laws that are becoming stricter and stricter for motorists," Skordas said.