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DA may decide crash was accident

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley
probably won't spend a day in jail for the car wreck that led to the death of teammate Dan Snyder, some legal experts say.

Because Heatley wasn't drunk and Snyder's relatives say they
forgive him, prosecutors could decide the car crash was just an
accident, with no need to pursue felony charges and sentences
ranging from three to 15 years.

"I am deeply saddened and very sorry over the loss of my close friend and teammate, Dan Snyder," Heatley said in a statement released Tuesday. "At this time, my focus is on the Snyder family and my rehabilitation from the injuries that I sustained in the accident."

"If the family says that they do not want to press charges, and
if there are no drugs or alcohol involved, there's a good chance
that the state will not prosecute or that they will work out some
sort of plea agreement," Camilla Watson, a criminal law professor
at the University of Georgia, said Monday.

Snyder was riding in Heatley's Ferrari when it spun out of
control on a narrow road in Atlanta and slammed into a wall Sept.
29. He died six days later, and Heatley was charged with felony
vehicular homicide.

Heatley, free on $50,000 bond, also faces four misdemeanors.

"After we complete the investigation, we will make a decision
on what charges, if any, to present to the grand jury," said Erik
Friedly, a spokesman for the district attorney. "There's always a
possibility that during the investigation it can be determined that
charges aren't appropriate."

It's unknown exactly how fast Heatley was driving, what caused
the accident or if there was a defect in the road or car, said
Heatley's attorney, Don Samuel. He said reports that put Heatley's
speed at 80 mph are "unreliable."

"I don't know that any sentence at all is appropriate because
it isn't determined that he committed any crime," Samuel said.
"It's too early to predict what the final outcome would be."

Test results showed Heatley consumed a small amount of alcohol
before the crash. His blood alcohol content was 0.015, far below
the state's legal limit of 0.08.

Heatley, last season's All-Star MVP, was injured in the crash
and is out indefinitely. He broke his jaw and tore two ligaments in
his knee.

As Snyder was buried Friday in his hometown of Elmira, Ontario,
his parents said they don't blame Heatley for his death.

Those factors could contribute to a decision to let Heatley off
the hook or for prosecutors to grant a plea agreement with a
sentence of community service, said Robert Pugsley, a criminal law
professor at Southwestern University in Los Angeles.

"This may be treated as an accident, and I would not be
surprised if the district attorney did not proceed," he said.
"It's a really tough call, and it depends on the district
attorney's determination of if famous people need to be reined in
or are getting away with too much."