AP Sports Writer
Tony Stewart could still face criminal charges for running down Kevin Ward Jr. with his sprint car, even if the three-time NASCAR champion didn’t mean to kill Ward, hurt him or even scare him.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero, who announced on Tuesday that the investigation is continuing, has said that his initial findings have turned up nothing that would indicate criminal intent in the crash at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
But legal experts agree that does not mean Stewart is in the clear.
The NASCAR star could be charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believe he “recklessly caused the death of another person,” with negligent homicide another possibility, according to criminal law professor Corey Rayburn Yung of the Kansas University School of Law.
“The question over whether someone was reckless is a factual one, and one a prosecutor might let a jury decide,” said Yung, who also posts at the Concurring Opinion blog.
Athletes in competition often do things that would get the average person arrested - think two boxers in the ring, or a baserunner sliding into second with his spikes high. But sometimes an act is so far outside the bounds of accepted sporting behavior that it becomes a crime, as former major leaguer Jose Offerman learned when he was charged with felony assault for rushing the mound - swinging a bat - after he was hit by a pitch in a minor league game.