Wrong-way fatality motorist seeks reduction of $250,000 bond Thursday
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009 11:41 am
George Harry Widener
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (June 11, 2009) — Clad in a striped orange-and-white prison jumpsuit, George Harry Widener showed no emotion Tuesday when he appeared in court for an arraignment on involuntary manslaughter charges accusing him of killing former Waynesville High School head baseball coach Don Nelson in a wrong-way head-on crash.
Associate Circuit Judge Greg Warren asked Widener if he had enough money to hire his own attorney or wanted a public defender. Widener said Tuesday that he will be using the Dan Birdsong law firm from Rolla, and on Wednesday, John Garrabrandt from that law firm entered his appearance on Widener’s behalf.
Warren continued Widener’s bail at $250,000 cash-only and as of Thursday he was still in the Pulaski County Jail. However, a bond reduction hearing has been scheduled at 1:30 p.m. today seeking a lower bond amount.
According to online court records, Circuit Judge Tracy Storie granted a change of judge after a closed-session meeting on Wednesday in his chambers and assigned the case to Maries County Associate Circuit Judge John Clayton.
The crash that generated the charges happened on June 4 when Nelson was riding a motorcycle and was struck head-on by Widener, who was driving the wrong way on Old Route 66 in St. Robert in a Chevrolet Avalanche SUV. Widener was not hurt in the crash; Nelson was pronounced dead on the scene.
Widener, 64, of Jerome, has three prior alcohol-related convictions dating back to 1983. His most recent alcohol-related conviction was in 1999, according to the St. Robert police report filed with the circuit court. In the June 4 wreck, according to the results of a blood alcohol test, Widener had a blood alcohol content of 0.214 percent; Missouri’s legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
The charge faced by Widener is a Class B felony which carries a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison. His blood alcohol level would only have had to be 0.18 percent to qualify for the charge.