Bassett pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter, DUI

Friday, September 5, 2014

A local man pleaded guilty Thursday in Bourbon County District Court to two counts he faced related to a fatal accident he was involved in about two years ago.

Joshua Shane Bassett, 26, of Fort Scott, pleaded guilty during an arraignment and plea hearing Thursday morning to an alternative count of involuntary manslaughter and a count of driving under the influence, first conviction. Bourbon County District Judge Mark Ward presided over the hearing with Gilbert Gregory, the defendant's attorney, and Bourbon County Attorney Terri Johnson, representing the prosecution, present.

The involuntary manslaughter charge, a severity level-five person felony, carries a possible sentence of a minimum of 31 months to a maximum of 136 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections, and a maximum fine of up to $300,000. The misdemeanor DUI charge carries a sentence of up to six months in the county jail and a minimum fine of $750.

Johnson said after the hearing that the felony sentence is dependent upon a person's criminal history. She said the maximum fines are rare but are one of the defendant's possible punishments.

The alternative involuntary manslaughter charge states that Bassett allegedly "did unlawfully and unintentionally kill a human being: to wit: Justin M. Hueston, which was done recklessly," according to court records.

According to district court records dated Dec. 6, 2013, Bassett faced felony charges that included one count of involuntary manslaughter, a severity level-four personal felony; the alternative involuntary manslaughter charge; or in the alternative vehicular homicide, a class "A" person misdemeanor.

As part of the plea agreement, the state has agreed to dismiss the remaining counts.

Ward read the defendant his rights concerning the guilty pleas and placed the defendant under oath to ask him questions related to the defendant's understanding of the plea documents. Ward said the defendant would be waiving his rights by entering the guilty pleas and the case would not go to trial once the guilty pleas were entered. Ward also questioned the defendant to ensure he understood the penalties involved and that he was entering the guilty pleas "freely and voluntarily."

Ward ordered a pre-sentence investigation report, which will show the defendant's criminal history. Johnson said the defendant must also register within a certain time frame as a violent offender due to the involuntary manslaughter charge.

Johnson recapped the fatal accident during the hearing and said that Hueston suffered major injuries as a result of the crash. An autopsy indicated Hueston died of massive trauma to various parts of his body. Testing after the accident showed that Bassett had a low-level of methamphetamines in his system at the time of the accident, which was investigated by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper.

Johnson said Bassett "didn't remember anything" after the accident and "was sleepy and continued to drive in that condition." Johnson said the state has a witness who saw Bassett driving erratically just before the accident just across the state line. Bassett swerved into another lane and the witness' vehicle had to veer off to avoid being struck. This incident could be entered by the state as evidence if the matter were to go to trial, Johnson said.

In a separate DUI case that took place about one year after the fatal accident, local police allegedly found the defendant in his vehicle, which was in the middle of the road and the defendant was slumped over the wheel. At that time, before being taken into custody, the defendant allegedly was found to be in possession of illegal drugs, Johnson said.

The fatal accident took place on U.S. 54 just before the state line. The defendant was not found to be in possession of drugs at the time of the accident, Johnson said.

Ward said he found the defendant to be mentally competent and accepted the defendant's guilty pleas. He scheduled sentencing for 9 a.m., Friday, Nov. 7, and also revoked the defendant's bond. Bassett remains incarcerated at the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center. He was officially booked Oct. 31, 2013.

The arraignment and plea hearing was rescheduled during a proceeding last month.

Bassett was involved in a two-vehicle fatality accident that occurred Sept. 25, 2012 that resulted in the death of 22-year-old Justin Hueston. Hueston died when the 1977 Honda motorcycle he was driving east on U.S. Highway 54 was struck head-on by a 1996 Buick Park Avenue driven by Bassett. Bassett's vehicle, which was westbound on U.S. 54, drifted left of center and struck the motorcycle in the eastbound turn lane to 265th Street, about 34 feet west of the intersection of U.S. 54 and 265th Street, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol report.

Hueston was wearing safety glasses and a helmet at the time of the accident, which took place about 7:30 a.m. He was transported to the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., the report states.