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Man avoids serious punishment for deadly DUI crash after botched plea deal

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FORT MADISON (WGEM) -- A Kahoka man accused of killing two Iowa men in a 2019 DUI crash avoided prosecution on the most serious charges due to an assistant prosecutor's failure to put together a well-worded plea deal.

Lee County attorney Ross Braden called it "a tragic miscarriage of justice" Friday.

Prosecutors arrested Robert Boyd, 29, on June 9, 2019, for being drunk when he got into a head-on collision with Farmington residents LaVerne and Michael Faulkner.

The two later died from their injuries at Keokuk Area Hospital and authorities charged Boyd with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of OWI.

On Jan. 25, assistant prosecutor Kim Auge emailed Boyd's attorney Curt Dial a plea deal: if Boyd pleaded guilty to just one of the three charges, the other two would be dropped.

"In an effort to resolve this matter short of trial, the State would be willing to allow him to plead open to one count of the Trial information," she wrote. "Please let me know if this is agreeable to your client."

However, because Auge did not specify to which charge she wanted Boyd to plead guilty, he was able to choose.

Dial said it was unlike any situation he had ever encountered in more than two decades of practicing law.

"I contacted Mr. Boyd and he elected to plead guilty to the OWI," he said.

Dial said it wasn't long before prosecutors realized their mistake and tried to have Boyd plead guilty to vehicular homicide, a Class B felony that carries a 25-year prison sentence.

"But we believed that the plea offer had been made and accepted so we proceeded to have that enforced," he said.

While prosecutors tried to get the guilty plea thrown out, they were overruled by the court and on Feb. 19, Judge John Wright sentenced Boyd to one year in the Lee County Jail, a $1,250 fine and six-year revocation of his drivers license.

Braden said he originally put Auge on administrative leave following the incident, but his office accepted her resignation Friday.

Dial said he did what he is supposed to do to defend his client.

"I'm ethically required to represent my client, not the other people," he said.

But Braden said it's a bad misstep from his office.

"This never should have happened, he should have never had that opportunity," he said.

Braden said his office is putting new measures in place to make sure what happened never happens again.

"In cases of this magnitude where the consequences are of such a serious nature, any communications that we purport to potentially resolve the matter will be forwarded to me," he said.

But Braden said the damage has been done, especially to the Faulkners.

"It's an affront to them," Braden said. "It's an insult to injury in my opinion and my heart breaks for them."

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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