INDEPENDENCE, Iowa — A judge will not consider requests from a dead farmer's relatives to impose prison time when she sentences "The Bachelor" star Chris Soules for leaving the scene of the accident that killed the man, she ruled Tuesday.
The wife and sons of farmer Kenneth Mosher are not considered victims under Iowa law because Soules was not convicted of causing Mosher's death, Judge Andrea Dryer ruled. Therefore, it was inappropriate for a state corrections official to include their "victim impact statements" in a presentence investigation report that recommended Soules be given a term of incarceration, she ruled.
Dryer ordered the Department of Correctional Services to conduct a new presentence investigation and said she would reschedule Tuesday's sentencing hearing for a later date.
Soules was driving a pickup truck that rear-ended Mosher's slow-moving tractor on a rural highway near Aurora in northeastern Iowa on April 24, 2017. Mosher, 66, was killed after the tractor rolled into a ditch.
Soules called 911 and tried to perform CPR on Mosher. But he left the scene once emergency responders arrived and returned to his home in a neighboring county, where he refused to answer the door until law enforcement officers obtained a warrant several hours later. Prosecutors say Soules' departure prevented investigators from determining whether alcohol, exhaustion or other impairment were factors in the crash.
Soules pleaded guilty last year to an aggravated misdemeanor for leaving the scene without providing his address and license plate number as required. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped a felony charge. Defense attorneys have framed the collision as an "unavoidable accident," arguing that the tractor did not have required flashing lights and that Soules was traveling under the speed limit. They have also said there is no evidence that Soules had been drinking.
The three victim impact statements written by Mosher's relatives and the presentence investigation report are sealed but were described in court Tuesday. The statements suggested that the accident was avoidable and urged the court to impose a two-year prison term, the maximum penalty available. The author of the presence investigation report cited the victim impact statements in recommending a sentence of incarceration for Soules. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors had agreed to adopt that recommendation for sentencing. Soules' lawyers are asking for probation.
Dryer said Mosher's relatives are victims in the ordinary sense of the word and that she didn't "have any question as to the extent to which they suffered." But she said they do not meet the definition in state law.
Soules, his parents and an insurer agreed in January to pay $2.5 million to Mosher's estate to settle civil claims related to the accident.