Niagara Gazette

April 4, 2014

PLEA: Reduced charges for teen involved in fatal crash.

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT -- A Lewiston teen will serve six months in jail and five years of probation after her guilty plea to reduced charges in connection with a fatal accident on Walmore Road in May.

Taylor Clause, 18, pleaded guilty to charges of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and first-degree vehicular assault in a deal with prosecutors. She had faced a 23-count grand jury indictment that charged her with driving drunk and high and killing a passenger in her car.

Prosecutors said they offered Clause a deal after "issues" emerged with a witness in the case. She had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicular manslaughter, three counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, first-degree aggravated vehicular assault, first-degree vehicular assault, three counts of second-degree vehicular assault, three counts of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of marijuana, driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, imprudent speed, failure to reduce speed on a curve and failure to stay in a lane.

Assistant District Attorney Theodore Brenner told State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch Sr. that the family of the victim, Jasmin Dubuc, 19, of Cayuga Drive, had agreed to the plea deal.

"They've agreed to this, reluctantly, as the least bad option on a list of worst options," Brenner said. 

Outside the courtroom, Dubuc's father, Steve, expressed his frustration.

"I'm not happy," he said. "It's a travesty of justice, but under the circumstances, what could we do?"

Clause was accused of being behind the wheel during the one-car rollover accident that killed Dubuc. The Falls teen was ejected from Clause's 2009 Mazda after the car failed to negotiate a curve while traveling north in the early morning hours on Walmore Road, near Mount Hope Road. 

Dubuc, the mother of a 1-month old son at the time of the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family is now raising the child.

Clause, who also suffered serious injuries, was taken to the Erie County Medical Center by Mercy Flight. She has since recovered from those injuries.

Another passenger in the car, Jasmine Rickard, 18, of Upper Mountain Road, Sanborn, was also flown to ECMC by Mercy Flight. She was treated and then later released.

Accident investigators said none of the teens were wearing seat belts prior to the crash.

A blood sample from Clause showed that her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit of 0.08 at the time of the crash. 

The issue for prosecutors stemmed from grand jury testimony given by Rickard. Rickard, who was reportedly the key witness in the case against Clause, was arrested on Jan. 4 after she fled from the scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Hamm Road and Locust Street Extension in Lockport.

“She was arrested for DWI,” Brenner said at an earlier court appearance in the case, “and the police and I believe she lied about that incident.”

Investigators said Rickard was driving south on Locust Street Extension and failed to stop at a stop sign. She struck another car that was traveling east on Hamm Road. 

The 64-year-old driver of the second car was hospitalized with minor injuries. Rickard and two passengers in her car, an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old from Lewiston, were taken to Eastern Niagara Hospital-Lockport for treatment of minor injuries.

Rickard was charged with driving while intoxicated, driving while ability impaired by the combination of drugs and alcohol, leaving the scene of an injury accident, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and running a stop sign.

With their star witness "compromised by lies," prosecutors made the plea deal and agreed to the limited sentence. Kloch did warn Clause that if she violates the terms of her probation, he will sentence her to a state prison term.

Contact reporter Rick Pfeiffer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.