Cosby businessman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide charges

Cosby businessman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide charges

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Dan Ford (right) appears in court Monday morning. Dan Ford (right) appears in court Monday morning.
A memorial for Kate at the site of the accident. A memorial for Kate at the site of the accident.
Kate Richardson (Source: Smoky Mountain Outdoors) Kate Richardson (Source: Smoky Mountain Outdoors)
Daniel Jennette, Kate's former boss, feels Ford's punishment was not enough. Daniel Jennette, Kate's former boss, feels Ford's punishment was not enough.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - A Cocke County businessman and former Cocke County election commissioner took a plea deal for charges stemming from a 2011 accident that killed a bicyclist.

Dan Ford, 75, pled guilty Monday morning to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.

Ford struck two bicyclists back in July 2011 while driving drunk.

Katelin "Kate" Richardson, 21, of Jeffersonville, Vt. was killed in the collision. She was working at a Smoky Mountain Outdoors, a rafting business, in Hartford for the summer.

The other bicyclist was not injured.

On Monday, Ford took a guilty plea in exchange for a five-year judicial deferral. Ford will serve 48 hours in jail and his license will be suspended for three years.

The prosecutor explained why they decided not to take the case to trial.

"There was a serious question if he would have been able to see her," said prosecutor Al Schmutzer. "If he hadn't had anything to drink, she was, unfortunately, the victim, operating her bicycle in the middle of the roadway at night without proper lighting."

Richardson was a physical therapy major who played soccer for Springfield College in Springfield, Mass.

Daniel Jennette, the owner of Smoky Mountain Outdoors, hired Richardson to be a rafting guide. He said she had been working for his company for several months before her death.

He feels Ford's punishment is not enough.

"I'm disappointed," said Jennette. "Just goes to show you that, in my opinion, money, power, and politics prevail over what people would be held accountable to."

A rafting paddle has been placed on State Highway 73 where Richardson was killed.

Schmutzer says Kate's family was in agreement with the deal and feel the punishment was just.

"I sure do, considering the fact we could have very well lost the case with regards to vehicular homicide," said Schmutzer.

Richardson's photo is now framed at the boat house at Smoky Mountain Outdoors.

"People are going to be upset how it ended, but she won't be forgotten," said Jennette. "I just think it will be more remembering the fact justice wasn't served."

Ford is scheduled to report to jail at 6 p.m. Monday.

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