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Prineville man gets 3-year sentence in fatal drugged-driving crash


(Update: Adding lifetime driver’s license revocation)

A Prineville man was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, three years probation and a lifetime driver’s license reovation for a 2016 drugged-driving crash on Highway 126 west of Redmond that killed a Madras man.

Deschutes County Circuit Judge Wells Ashby imposed the sentence on Justice Knight Collins, 20, who was 18 in March 2016 when prosecutors said he was high on marijuana when his 2002 Ford Explorer, heading east on Highway 126, crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a 2003 Chrysler van, killing the driver, Jason Franklin, 41.

Franklin died at the crash scene, while Collins was taken to St. Charles Bend for treatment of his injuries. Authorities said one car was able to avoid the oncoming SUV, but the minivan behind it could not.

Prosecutors had recommended the three-year prison term, followed by three years of probation, and the permanent revocation of Collins’ driver’s license.

Collins was indicted in February of this year on charges including second-degree manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty in May, and a five-day trial had been scheduled to begin Dec. 5. But he agreed Nov. 2 to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide and a misdemeanor DUII charge based on marijuana use.

In the state’s sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Kari Hathorn said Oregon State Police troopers found two glass pipes with burned marijuana residue, among other items, and several photographs of marijuana and paraphernalia on his phone, photos of what appeared to be uncut methamphetamine and text messages related to drug acquisition and sales.

Collins had been working as a carpenter with his father at a job site in Redmond that day, then went to Sisters. He told authorities that day he had last used marijuana that afternoon, during a break at work around 2 or 3 p.m.; the crash occurred shortly before 6:30 p.m.

Hathorn said troopers observed Collins’ vital signs at the hospital and noted he “had physical signs consistent with cannabis impairment.” A blood sample was drawn about two hours after the crash and found levels of THC, she said, a “psychoactive metabolite.”

Hathorn said Collins also told the trooper he was on probation for assault and was not supposed to be using drugs or alcohol.

At the time of his arrest in March of this year, Hathorn said, Collins told officials he kept falling asleep while driving from Sisters to Redmond and remembered the lines on the road blurring. But he changed his earlier statement and claimed he had not smoked any marijuana the day of the crash. He told the trooper the crash was “an accident” and that he did not feel that it was his fault, Hathorn wrote.

Hathorn noted Collins’ juvenile criminal history in Crook County and court orders to undergo treatment programs and to not use alcohol or drugs, yet the prosecutor said he “continues to use marijuana,” despite repeated orders to engage in treatment and repeated revocation of probation.

In the defendant’s sentencing memorandum, attorney Matthew Baughman noted Collins’ family history, saying “his parents were often unavailable or unable to provide care due in part to alcohol and other substance abuse.” He said “Collins spent a significant period of his early childhood” living with his grandparents, and “was first exposed to alcohol and other illicit substance use at a very young age.”

“He reports that his earliest memories are of his parents being intoxicated,” Baughman wrote, noting that his older brothers began using marijuana when he lived in a small cabin with his father and two brothers, in a remote area between Prineville and Mitchell.

He said “Collins began using marijuana at 13, when he moved to Prineville … due in part to peer pressure and a desire to fit in,” noting he “was also subject to other forms of childhood trauma.”

The defense lawyer said Collins has worked in the timber industry and as a carpenter, and that his most recent supervisor calls him a “good kid,” a “hard worker” and “someone who is learning to take responsibility.”

Baughman said Collins “returned to carpentry following his recovery. He has gained valuable skills, a meaningful work ethic and sense of purpose and self-worth through his trade.”

“More than this, Mr. Collins recognizes that his actions and the resulting accident have had a tragic cost,” the attorney wrote. “It is his desire to take from this experience and to use it to help others avoid making similar decisions. … It is his desire to share his story to prevent future tragedy.”

Seeking a lower sentence than recommended by the state, Baughman wrote, “In the time since the accident, he has made strides toward learning to be responsible and to accept responsibility. … Mr. Collins is presently in the process of reinventing himself and is amenable to treatment. Treatment will be far more effective than a period of incarceration in fostering the growth he has been working towards.”

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