Public Safety

Chris Soules pleads to misdemeanor charge in fatal crash

Faces up to 2 years in jail, could receive probation

Chris Soules listens during a hearing in Buchanan County District Court with his lawyers Alfredo Parrish, Robert Montgomery and Brandon Brown Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, in Independence, Iowa. Reality TV star Soules is charged with leaving the scene in a fatal April crash near Aurora, Iowa. (RODNEY WHITE/DES MOINES REGISTER /POOL)
Chris Soules listens during a hearing in Buchanan County District Court with his lawyers Alfredo Parrish, Robert Montgomery and Brandon Brown Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, in Independence, Iowa. Reality TV star Soules is charged with leaving the scene in a fatal April crash near Aurora, Iowa. (RODNEY WHITE/DES MOINES REGISTER /POOL)
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INDEPENDENCE — Former reality TV star Chris Soules pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge and faces up to two years in jail in the fatal crash that killed a 66-year-old Aurora farmer April 24, 2017.

Soules, 36, of rural Arlington, filed a written plea in Buchanan County District Court to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury. He admitted in the plea that he was involved in the crash with Kenneth Mosher, who died from his injuries soon after the crash. In the plea, Soules said he “immediately stopped, called 911 and identified myself, and rendered reasonable aid to the injured person.”

Soules said he also requested an ambulance and performed CPR. He admitted that he didn’t provide his vehicle license plate number to 911 dispatch or law enforcement as required by law, according to the plea.

Soules was originally charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Authorities said Soules’ truck rear-ended Mosher’s tractor on Slater Avenue, north of Aurora, and Soules left before law enforcement arrived.

Court documents show “empty and partially consumed open alcoholic beverages” were found in and around Soules’ truck when first responders arrived on the scene. Soules also was seen purchasing alcohol before the crash.

Soules’ lawyers, however, have said two separate urine and blood samples, tested by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab, were negative for drugs or alcohol.

After leaving the crash scene, authorities said, Soules returned home and refused to leave until authorities obtained a search warrant. Soules was taken into custody several hours after the crash.

Soules also faces a fine of up to $6,250 and, according to the plea agreement, he can ask the court for a deferred judgment — meaning the charge could eventually be cleared from his record — or a suspended sentence and receive probation.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 8.

In the plea filing, Soules’ attorney Brandon Brown provided additional evidence of the case. He said during the course of the investigation, attorneys examined “hundreds of documents” and questioned about two dozen witnesses, including law enforcement, medical responders, bystanders and one person who witnessed the crash.

Brown said evidence shows the small cab-less tractor Mosher was driving “on a dark, overcast night” didn’t have any lights, although Iowa law requires slow-moving tractors to display flashing amber lights. Based on testimony, the tractor may have been traveling as slow as 6 mph, and Soules was traveling under the speed limit at time of impact, Brown said.

“At these speeds, law enforcement and collision experts concluded Mr. Soules reacted reasonably given the closing speed and known reaction time to seeing the slow-moving tractor,” Brown said in the plea. “Mr. Soules found himself in an unavoidable accident.”

Brown said Soules’ air bag deployed but didn’t prevent him from hitting his head on the windshield, which shattered. He was later diagnosed with a concussion. Soules was disoriented after the crash but “promptly” called 911, Brown said.

Eyewitnesses confirmed Soules administered CPR to Mosher and stopped once the compressions caused blood to come from Mosher’s mouth.

Brown said Soules also remained on the scene until emergency responders arrived and he directed them to Mosher. “All of the on-scene witnesses agreed there was no indication whatsoever that Mr. Soules was impaired” and did not smell alcohol on him, Brown said.

Time line

• JANUARY 2015: Chris Soules introduces the small Iowa town of Arlington to TV viewers nationwide as star of season 19 of the ABC reality show, “The Bachelor.” In the finale, “Prince Farming,” as he becomes known, proposes to contestant Whitney Bischoff. But the romance ends when they break up later.

• APRIL 24, 2017: Driving a pickup truck, Soules rear-ends a John Deere tractor traveling on a road near Aurora. Kenneth Mosher, a Vietnam veteran and farmer, was gravely injured and later died at a hospital. A recording shows Soules called 911 from the scene, but authorities say he fled in another vehicle before they arrived.

• APRIL 25, 2017: After hours of refusing to come out of his house, Soules is arrested by deputies with a search warrant and is booked in jail in the early morning. He is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He posts bail and is released.

• DEC. 15, 2017: Defense attorneys file a motion saying Soules will argue “diminished capacity” because of a medical condition if the charge is not dropped. They did not say what the medical condition was, except that it involved “injuries sustained.”

• FEB. 23: The Iowa Supreme Court refuses to dismiss the felony charge.

• OCT. 16: Attorneys disclose in a hearing they’re close to a plea deal.

• TUESDAY: Soules pleads guilty to the lesser charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury, reducing the potential prison time he faces from a maximum of five years to a maximum of two. Sentencing is set for January.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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