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Fri, Sept. 20

Seth Collins told he could face 20 years on plea for DUI crash

Seth Collins

Seth Collins

CAMP VERDE -- A true negotiating session was conducted in court Monday over a possible sentence for Seth Collins, the man charged with DUI and crashing into the family of Jeremy Hutchinson and Sabrina Champ last November.

The wreck occurred on State Route 260, the same highway where Jeremy's father and two older brothers were killed in another DUI accident New Year's Eve 2004.

A dramatic fleet of five medical helicopters were needed to transport the injured to trauma hospitals in the crash last November.

Monday's session was a continuation of an earlier settlement agreement and Donald Hearing to compare the possible consequences of a plea agreement vs. being convicted of all charges at trial.

Sabrina Champ, who was pregnant at the time of the wreck and later lost the child, complained that the plea contains a charge of "attempted assault," that she contends was clearly, "assault." She also said the plea did not account for the death of her child and cited Arizona Revised Statute about rights of an unborn child.

Champ, now restricted to a wheelchair, told the judge, "I think that plea should go in the garbage. What happened is assault and nothing less. He drove through my family."

Children of the couple and Jeremy Hutchinson, himself, sobbed as they told the judge they were disappointed in the plea.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff spoke with both attorneys in chambers for about 20 minutes. As he returned to court, he held another sidebar with attorneys for an additional 15 minutes.

When Collins' attorney, Matthew Springer, was given a chance to speak, he said, "Mr. Collins is not a monster. He has been a family man. He was going through a personal crisis at the time. There are no excuses, but a different witness gave a different account of the accident. There are more facts that have not been released and there is an abundance of mitigation for Mr. Collins."

Judge Bluff finally summarized the discussion with both attorneys. Bluff looked at the family of the victims and told them, "I have heard what you have been saying about the attempted assault vs. assault and also that the defendant has not accepted responsibility for the accident. I agree. I would prefer a plea of guilty to aggravated assault."

Bluff continued that he believed a multi-charge range of 15 to 20 years in prison is appropriate if Collin pleaded to an aggravated assault.

"He is now 45 and would not spend the rest of his life in prison," the judge said.

He said it is now up to the State to determine if it can provide a plea in that range.

Patti Wortman, deputy county attorney, added, "There is no guarantee. At trial, the defendant would face up to 136 years on all charges."

Seth Collins, who has been held in the county jail on $75,000 bond, is also charged in two separate drug paraphernalia charges, and was indicted on 23 counts relating to the Nov. Nov. 21, 2014, accident

The judge concurred that "all bets are off if it goes to trial."

He set the session to continue in six weeks, Nov. 24. He said at that time, he expects "to accept a plea or set the case for trial."

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