Former Seahawk Derrick Coleman pleads not guilty to vehicular assault, hit-and-run
SEATTLE — Former Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman appeared before a King County judge Thursday and pleaded not guilty to two felony charges related to an October 2015 car crash.
The former fan favorite and first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL could face 12 to 16 months behind bars if convicted of felony hit-and-run and vehicular assault.
Prosecutors received the case from the Bellevue Police Department in January and announced the charges earlier this month.
Coleman told police he had smoked “Spice” — a synthetic form of marijuana — about an hour before crashing his pickup truck into the back of a car in Bellevue. The driver of the Honda Civic suffered a broken collarbone when his car flipped over.
According to investigators, Coleman’s truck was traveling at around 60 mph in a 35 mph zone when the collision occurred.
Witnesses told responding officers that Coleman had fled the scene without offering aid to the other driver or calling police. He was found sitting on a bench a couple blocks away.
Despite Coleman’s alleged admission to drug use, and the fact that packets of Spice were found in his truck, a blood test taken more than six hours after the crash turned up clean.
William Kirk, a criminal traffic defense attorney, said it is still possible for prosecutors to prove their case without evidence of drugs in Coleman’s system.
“There are three ways that a person can be found guilty of vehicular assault,” Kirk said. “One is under disregard for the safety of others — driving in just a grossly negligent manner. Another is driving in a reckless manner, or with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, and there certainly is some evidence to suggest that one of those two may have occurred. As far as under the DUI prong, without any existence of any substance in his blood or a metabolite, I think the prosecutor is going to have a problem with that particular prong of the statute.”
As part of pretrial conditions, Coleman is prohibited from using or possessing synthetic cannabinoids or marijuana.
Mischelle Davis, chairman of the Washington chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was in the courtroom Thursday. She said she hopes the case can help raise awareness about the effects drugs like Spice can have.
“Alcohol is not the only substance that is impairing drivers and causing crashes, injuries, and fatalities on our roads,” she said.
“Obviously this is a very high-profile case and people in the public eye who are role models to our young people pay attention to these kind of cases. We wanted to be aware of what’s going on and leverage it if we can to help us raise awareness about impaired driving.”
Coleman’s defense attorneys, Jon Scott Fox and Diego Vargas, said Thursday they plan to fight the charges and released a statement earlier in the week.
“The evidence in this case is both contradictory and complicated. Despite repeated press conferences by Bellevue Police we know that the best method for getting to the truth of what really happened is in the courtroom,” the statement read, in part.
Coleman is a free agent. His contract with Seattle expired after last season.