By Grayson Schmidt, Ames Tribune
AMES — The former CyRide bus driver accused of striking and killing Emmalee Jacobs, an Iowa State University student from Urbana, in a December 2015 hit-and-run crash pleaded guilty to an amended charge Monday, three days after District Court Judge Steve Van Marel denied the state’s request to continue the trial.
Benjamin D. Clague, 23, of Gilbert, pleaded guilty to failure to report an accident, a simple misdemeanor. Clague was arrested Jan. 20, and originally charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and failure to obey a traffic control device, to which he pleaded not guilty in February in Story County District Court.
The trial was set to begin Tuesday.
According to Assistant Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds, Clague’s sentencing hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada. Reynolds said the prosecution and defense have agreed to recommend a sentence of 30 days in jail, a $100 fine and 35 percent surcharge and court costs.
Jacobs, 18, was struck by a CyRide bus as she crossed Ash Avenue at Lincoln Way just after 7 a.m. Dec. 14. It was dark and rainy at the time and no surveillance cameras in the area caught an image of the crash. Police spent days interviewing people, checking auto body shops and asking for the public’s help to solve the case, fearing it could go cold as students packed up and left for the holiday break.
According to Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle, a CyRide supervisor was reviewing bus videos came across a “concerning video” and was able to identify the driver as Clague.
Tuttle said Clague was driving west that day on Lincoln Way and made a left turn onto Ash Avenue against a flashing yellow arrow when the bus struck Jacobs.
In a ruling last Thursday on the elements of the offense, Reynolds said the judge ruled in favor of the defense, saying the prosecution must prove that Clague knew he struck a person at the time of the crash. According to Reynolds, the state’s argument was that Clague felt the impact and then later figured out what had happened, and did not report to police.
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Reynolds said the judge’s ruling “was fatal” to their case, and that the state could not prove the felony charge. So a plea agreement was reached.
A telephone message left for Clague’s attorney, Lucas J. Richardson, Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.