A grand jury in Ontario County New York has decided that there will be no charges against NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo, released the grand jury’s recommendation Wednesday afternoon saying the grand jury found “no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes.” The DA elected to present the findings to a grand jury on September 16th after evidence gathered by the Ontario County New York Sheriff’s office into the August 9th accident was handed over. Strewart could have been charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believed he “recklessly caused the death of another person” according to legal experts; negligent homicide was another possibility. The DA also said at a news conference that toxicology reports showed that the driver who was killed, Kevin Ward Jr.,, had traces of marijuana in his system in amounts large enough “to impair judgement”.
Stewart was involved in the incident on the dirt track in upstate New York on the Saturday night prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. On August 9th In the aftermath 20-year-old Ward Jr. was dead. Video showed that Ward had been involved with Stewart on the previous lap. The video showed Ward’s car as it came to rest on the back stretch. Ward exited the vehicle, and still wearing his racing helmet walked toward the line of cars circling under caution. He angrily pointed towards the car driven by Stewart; Stewart’s car struck Ward who was thrown in the air and landed several feet away. Ward was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
That Sunday morning Stewart announced he would not participate in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen. He later issued a statement expressing his sadness. Late that same afternoon Sheriff Povero held a press conference and said the investigation was not a criminal one. Stewart would miss a total of three races before returning to the circuit at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 29. He has made no public comments about the incident beyond reading a formal statement that said the incident was the toughest tragedies he has ever dealt with.
Shortly after Wednesday’s announcement Tony Stewart released a statement:
“This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive.”
“I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known.
“While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
NASCAR released its own statement as well:
“There are no winners in tragedy,” said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Chief Communications Officer.” Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”