Kurt Duncan Naegele, Accused of Fatal Crash Near Hearst Castle, Claims His Body was Switched
A Newport Beach man who is accused of causing a fatal 2009 car crash on the Hearst Ranch airstrip in San Luis Obispo already won a mistrial earlier this month after his attorney to the stars offered a new defense theory: that the real driver switched places with passed-out defendant Kurt Duncan Naegele.
Now, 42-year-old Naegle is suing the presumed passenger and the Hearst Corp., which is accused of failing to disclose people race cars on the airstrip.
According to the California Highway Patrol:
Naegele, Darren William Dahlman, 38, of Pasadena, Christopher H. Pennell, 40, of Los Angeles, and Ryan Robert Doheny, 39, of Los Angeles, had been drinking as guests invited to a birthday party on the San Simeon ranch on Sept. 18, 2009.
They drove to the airstrip to find out how fast Naegele's Range Rover could go, something a CHP investigator claims Doheny later told him was a bad idea because it was pitch black out and Naegele was driving very fast and erratically. Around 11 p.m., the Range Rover rolled several times before falling down a steep embankment several hundred feet off the runway on the north side of the airstrip.
The crash killed Dahlman, seriously injured Naegele (who had to be extricated from behind the steering wheel) and also injured Pennell and Doheny. Naegele and Doheny estimated to officers that they had been traveling 35 mph at the time of the crash, but CHP investigators who examined the skid marks and other evidence at the scene determined they were going more like 105 mph.
Doheny also claimed that Naegele, the Range Rover's registered owner, was behind the wheel. His blood-alcohol level later tested at about 0.16 percent--twice the legal limit. Beer cans were found strewn about the vehicle, according to court documents.
Naegele was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and two sentencing enhancements. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. Earlier this month, Judge Michael Duffy at San Luis Obispo County Superior Court declared a mistrial just after jury selection.
That was after Naegele's defense attorney Mark Geragos, who often appears by the side of celebrity clients or on cable news programs as a legal pundit, and partner Eugene Harris announced they would call an expert witness to testify that Naegele was not the actual driver that fateful night.
The attorneys had already filed a motion to impeach Doheny's testimony for lack of credibility, writing, "the defense theory of the case is that Mr. Doheny also moved Mr. Naegele's body into the driver's position, to hide the fact that he (Mr. Doheny) had been driving the vehicle at the time of the collision." The defense also brought up a past Doheny conviction for drunken driving, claiming he'd fled the scene of an accident while hammered.
Duffy denied the motion, according to the district attorney's office, but because prosecutor Matthew Kerrigan had not received within a required 30 days a notice from the defense that a new opposition witness would be called, the judge declared mistrial.
A new trial is scheduled to begin in late January or early February.
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