By Calen McKinney
Landmark News Service
After completing the majority of it, a Springfield man charged in 2008 after a one-vehicle crash left his passenger dead has failed the terms of his pretrial diversion. And, as a result, he could be sentenced to serve five years in prison.
Michael A. Barnett, 23, of 301 Hagan Lane, was indicted twice in 2008, with each of the indictments stemming from a September 2007 crash after which Aaron W. Couch was pronounced dead.
A grand jury first indicted Barnett in December 2008 on a charge of reckless homicide, a Class D felony punishable by as much as five years in prison.
Five months later, he was indicted again, this time on a charge of first-degree assault, a Class B felony punishable by as much as 20 years in prison.
In September 2009, the assault charge was dismissed in exchange for an Alford plea to the reckless homicide charge.
With an Alford plea, Barnett admits that the court has enough evidence to convict him, though he maintains his innocence. The court treats an Alford plea the same as a guilty plea.
At that time, Barnett was granted a five-year pretrial diversion and ordered to complete the Taylor County Drug Court program. If he failed the terms of his diversion, he was to be sentenced to five years in prison.
Last Tuesday, Barnett’s case was again heard in court, this time before Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly, for a motion to revoke his diversion. According to court records, Barnett has recently been charged with DUI.
Records don’t state where he allegedly drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, though a search shows that, at press time, he doesn’t have a pending DUI charge in Taylor County.
Barnett admitted to violating the terms of his diversion, records state, and was to serve seven days in jail.
Formal sentencing is set for next Tuesday.
A Campbellsville Police report states that the crash in which Couch died occurred at about 1:54 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2007, on U.S. 68.
The report states that Barnett was driving a 2001 Infiniti I30. He lost control of the vehicle, dropped off the shoulder, overcorrected and then overturned.
However, prosecutors said in 2009, determining who was driving the vehicle could have been a major issue in the case, should it have gone to trial.
Barnett and his three passengers, Couch, Phillip T. McIlvoy and Anthony M. Fields, all of Springfield, were ejected from the car.
Couch was airlifted by AirEvac Life Team to University of Louisville Hospital and died the next morning. Barnett, Fields and McIlvoy were all treated at various hospitals for their injuries and later released.
According to the police report, speed and alcohol appeared to be contributing factors in the collision. Court records state that Barnett admitted he had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before the crash.
Just before the crash, according to court records, former Campbellsville Police Officer Norman Simpson was traveling west on U.S. 68 when he met two vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed. Simpson turned to follow and pull the vehicles over, though he lost sight of the vehicles as he turned around.
A short time later, Simpson came upon the crash. The second car had already fled the scene.
Police said in 2007 that they weren’t sure if the second vehicle was involved in the crash.