Driver Accused of Crashing in Longmont, Trying to Blame Passenger Gets Probation in Plea Deal
An Arizona man accused of crashing a Jeep in Longmont last year and trying to blame the crash on his seriously injured passenger has pleaded guilty to a felony charge and was given probation and community service.
Caleb Jessie Phillips, 24, pleaded guilty in Boulder District Court to one count of vehicular assault and was sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service, according to court records.
Prosecutors dismissed one count of attempting to influence a public servant.
Phillips, who had been in custody on $25,000 bond, was also given credit for 296 days served in jail.
Phillips had originally pleaded not guilty and was set for trial in December, but that trial date has been cancelled with the plea deal.
According to an arrest affidavit, a resident near Rogers Road and Airport Road in Longmont called police at 2:18 a.m. on May 12, 2017, after seeing a vehicle pass by his house at a high speed and then hearing a loud “clunk.”
When a deputy arrived, they found Phillips looking for his wallet in the backseat of a heavily damaged 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. When police asked if Phillips was driving, he told them that his friend, Azar Tzegai, had been driving and said that Tzegai had been thrown from the vehicle and was lying in the field near the car.
A deputy found Tzegai unconscious in the field and called for an ambulance, which transported him to Longmont United Hospital. Tzegai, who suffered an injury to his vertebrae and brain, told police he had no recollection of the night of the crash.
In the days after the crash, police interviewed a friend of Phillips and Tzegai who said Phillips had called him immediately after the crash and said he had been driving when the crash occurred.
Another friend said that Phillips had admitted he was driving in a phone call the day after the crash, and witnesses at the bar where the two were drinking also said that Phillips had indicated he would be driving since Tzegai appeared to have been drinking more.
Test results later showed that the blood recovered from the driver side airbag was a match to Phillips, and not Tzegai.
Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/mitchellbyars