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Crime & Courts

May 11, 2012 3:10 PM by Jen Hollenbach (jen@krtv.com)

Jason Rosander sentenced for Loading Zone crash deaths

Jason Rosander, who admitted his guilt for the September 2011 collision that killed three people and seriously injured two others, has been sentenced to 15 years with the Montana Department of Corrections, with 10 of those years suspended, and also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $227,977.

Rosander crashed his truck into the Loading Zone bar on 10th Avenue South on September 25, 2011, killing Jeffrey Scott, Tony Hiatt, and Daigerrys Leon.

During the sentencing hearing on Friday, family members of the victims testified, telling the court what they think of the plea agreement.

Rosander took the stand to recount what happened and said that he accepted the non-binding plea agreement so that the family and friends of the victims didn't have to relive the accident during a trial.

Security was very tight in and around the courthouse, including snipers positioned on the roof, due to reported threats to both Judge Sandefur and to Rosander.

We will bring you more information online shortly and have complete coverage on this evening's newscast.


TIMELINE:

March 7, 2012: Jason Rosander acknowleged his guilt in a Great Falls courtroom on Wednesday for the deadly crash at The Loading Zone. Rosander gave his account of what happened leading up to the incident that killed three people and seriously injured two others. Before Judge Dirk Sandefur would accept a guilty plea, Rosander was asked to go step by step through the events that happened on September 25th. Rosander recalled the events of that night, telling the court about the coughing fit that caused him to begin to pull over off the road. Sentencing for Rosander has been set for Friday, May 11th, in order to allow out-of-town relatives of the victims to be present.

March 5, 2012: The Montana 8th Judicial District Court issued a press release to inform people that judges are not allowed to receive communication from the public on pending cases, and asks that people refrain from sharing their thoughts with the presiding judge. The release states, in part: "It is improper and unethical for any judge to accept or consider calls or written communications from the general public regarding the subject matter of a pending case. As a matter of law and ethics, judges can decide cases based only on the facts of the case and governing law without consideration of public opinion or sentiment."

March 2, 2012: Several people are outside the County Attorney's office in downtown Great Falls, protesting a possible plea agreement for Jason Rosander. County Attorney John Parker is talking to protesters individually, letting them explain why they are protesting. While Parker said that he can't go into any details yet, he did tell several individuals that a plea agreement will be filed later this morning. Many protesters are here representing the victims; one of them, Bridgette Stinson, said, "I'm out here because I'm a mom and it could have been our kids. It could have been anybody."

March 2, 2012: Jason Rosander is scheduled to plead guilty to three counts of negligent homicide, in accordance with a non-binding plea agreement filed with the Cascade County courthouse on Friday. In the agreement, the State agrees to dismiss Rosander's three alternative charges of vehicular homicide while under the influence. The plea agreement calls for a 15 year sentence, with 10 of those years suspended. The non-binding plea deal means that the sentencing judge will have discretion as to whether or not to follow the County Attorney's sentencing recommendation.

February 25, 2012: Greg Schoby created an online petition urging people to protest any plans to offer a plea deal to Jason Rosander. As of February 27, nearly 700 have signed the petition. Schoby says that the petition is not only for the victims of the Loading Zone tragedy, but also aimed at preventing similar tragedies in the future, and to demonstrate that Great Falls as community will not stand for drunk driving.

November 17, 2011: A trial date has been set for Jason Rosander, the Great Falls man who has been charged in the deaths of three people when his vehicle crashed into The Loading Zone in September. Rosander is set to go on trial on April 30th, 2012. Rosander is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence, and two counts of vehicular assault. During a hearing on Thursday, Judge Dirk Sandefur gave strict instructions for both the prosecution and the defense to comply with the trial timeline and wants to see no delay for the trial date. During the hearing, the state motioned for Rosander's bail conditions to be amended, restricting him from driving due to his disclosed medical condition. The court and defense agreed that Rosander will not operate a vehicle pending medical evaluation. The court also agreed to expand his travel restrictions to the state of Montana, in order to continue working; until now, he had been restricted to travel only within Cascade County. Rosander was given a strict warning not to violate any of his bail conditions. Jeffrey Scott, Tony Hiatt, and Daigerrys Leon all died after Rosander's vehicle crashed into the Loading Zone bar; two other people were injured in the September 25th collision. UPDATE: the trial has since been rescheduled and will now begin on May 7th.

October 27, 2011: Jason Rosander, charged in the deaths of three people after his vehicle crashed into a bar on 10th Avenue South in Great Falls. pleaded not guilty to all charges in court on Thursday. Rosander is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence, and two counts of vehicular assault. Rosander also pleaded not guilty to several alternative charges read during the court proceeding, including three counts of negligent vehicular homicide, which carry a lesser maximum sentence of 20 years. The purpose of the alternative charges is to give jurors an option if they find him not guilty of driving under the influence. A trial date has not yet been set. Jeffrey Scott, Tony Hiatt, and Daigerrys Leon all died after Rosander's vehicle crashed into the Loading Zone bar; two other people were injured in the September 25th collision.

October 2, 2011: Jason Rosander has been charged with a third count of vehicular homicide while under the influence, after a third victim in last week's Loading Zone Bar accident died Sunday afternoon. The victim has been identified as Jeffrey Scott. Tony Hiatt and Senior Airman Daigerrys Leon were pronounced dead last week. Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards says a fourth victim has been released from the hospital. The condition of the fifth victim is unclear at this point. In addition to the vehicular homicide charges, Rosander faces two counts of vehicular assault. Cascade County Attorney John Parker says Rosander will likely appear on those charges in court on Monday.

September 27, 2011: One of the people who was critically injured in Sunday's crash at The Loading Zone in Great Falls has died, according to Cascade County Attorney John Parker, bringing the death toll to two. Jason Lee Rosander of Great Falls has now been charged with a second count of felony vehicular homicide while under the influence. Rosander is also charged with negligent vehicular assault. The collision happened just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, September 25th, when Rosander crashed his vehicle into The Loading Zone on 10th Avenue South. Authorities have not yet released the names of any of the victims.

September 26, 2011: Jason Lee Rosander, charged in the fatal crash on Sunday morning at The Loading Zone, made his initial court appearance on Monday. Rosander is charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence. Authorities have confirmed that one person was killed when Rosander crashed into the bar on 10th Avenue South; the name of the victim has not been released by authorities at this time. Several other people suffered injuries when the car crashed into the building; the nature and extent of the injuries has not been made public. Court documents released on Monday state that when police officers responded to the scene at about 2 a.m. on Sunday, Rosander made "several excited utterances that he was responsible." Rosander also reportedly told authorities that he had approximately five drinks prior to the collision; a field breathalyzer yielded a blood-alcohol level of .107. The court document states that during processing at the Cascade County Detention Center, Rosander "continually admitted fault" for the collision and asked how the people he struck were doing.

Attorney Kenneth Olson is defending Rosander and called the events Sunday morning a "tragic accident" and attributed the incident to a medical condition where Rosander is known to have coughing fits and black out. Friends were prepared to testify on Rosander's behalf and say he would never intentionally hurt anyone. Ted Holmlund said, "I just want everyone to know that he's a great, stand-up person and that it's a terrible, horrific tragedy that's happened." Chuck Rosander, the father of Jason, said, "This was such a tragic, tragic accident. Our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts go out to the families of the victims - especially the gentleman that lost his life. I can't imagine what they're going through. I just want to say, from our family to their families how sorry we are."

September 25, 2011: Jason Rosander, 33, has been charged with vehicular homicide following an overnight collision that killed at least one person in Great Falls. The collision occurred at about 2 a.m. at The Loading Zone on 10th Avenue South, when a vehicle crashed into the front part of building. When police arrived they found out that the car had been driving eastbound on 10th Avenue South when it veered off the road and into a crowd of people who were standing in front of the bar. Initial reports indicate that one person was pinned between the car and the building. Police confirmed that one person was killed, and there were a number of other injuries. The name of the person who was killed has not been released, pending notification of family members. The nature and extent of injuries to other people has not been released at this point. Rosander, 33, is being held without bond; police tell us that more charges are pending.

September 25, 2011: A deadly accident occurred early Sunday at The Loading Zone in Great Falls. The Montana Highway Patrol confirms that it was a fatal accident, but has not released any other information at this point. Initial reports indicate that a vehicle crashed into the front part of the building at around 2 a.m. The cause of the crash is not yet known. It is not yet known how many people were killed or injured. As of 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, workers were boarding up the front section of The Loading Zone. Authorities are not releasing the names of anyone involved at this point, pending notification of family members.

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