In September 2013, Ashley Bell's vehicle collided a bicyclist on Coffee Road. The collision mortally wounded the bicyclist and Bell was charged with vehicular manslaughter for what the police described as "distracted driving." Now, 19 months later, Bell has been acquitted of the charge due to the investigation and diligence of her defense attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey. Both Bell and Attorney Humphrey spoke to The Bakersfield Californian about the decision and what Attorney Humphrey believes was a misguided case against Bell.
The victim was Tony Ray Rumple, 47. Examiners found that he died of acute head trauma from the collision. Even though Bell was neither drunk, high, nor speeding at the time of the collision, police and prosecutors zeroed in on the fact that she was on the phone—speaking to her friend via ear buds, which is allowable by law. She was promptly charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Attorney Humphrey and Bell recounted to the paper how the prosecution tried to characterize Bell as a frantic single mother, who, in a moment of stress, veered into the bike lane and killed Mr. Rumple. Attorney Humphrey, however, saw things differently. Citing coroner reports and interviewing medical experts, Attorney was able to firmly establish that Mr. Rumple was a meth user who was not only high at the time of his accident, but showed signs of habitual use. Due to the lack of reflectors, his bike was in violation of California Vehicle Code at the time of the collision.
Asserting all of this evidence, Humphrey was able accurately portray the contributing factors of the collision and counter the state's case against Bell. Talking to The Bakersfield Californian, he says he's surprised there was ever even a trial for this accident in the first place. "In this case there was no crime," Humphrey told the paper. "The prosecution was the crime."
Finding Justice Even in the Face of Loss
Attorney Humphrey and Bell maintain that the loss of Tony Ray Rumple is a tragedy, but that when an incident is purely an accident, criminal charges are not called for. Attorney Humphrey blamed what he called a "bloodlust, vengeful, vendetta society" for the unfounded charges against Bell. "Government is big and all-powerful, and we need to protect the rights of the individual," he told the paper following the court decision.
Bell, the mother of three, is grateful she does not have to be separated from her children to serve a jail sentence. Still, she believes that Rumple's death will weigh on her for the rest of her life. "No one feels more terrible than I do," she's quoted saying.
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