By Joy Ufford, Pinedale Roundup
PINEDALE – Earlier this month, Jade S. Jewkes, of Jackson, signaled a change of mind – or heart – about going to trial for aggravated homicide by vehicle while intoxicated after she collided with a Pinedale man on New Year’s Day.
Jewkes was arrested Jan. 1 after her northbound Jeep Cherokee crossed Highway 191 and struck a southbound plow-truck driven by Shane Deal near Granite Creek Road, causing severe injuries. Deal died later that night at St. Johns Hospital in Jackson.
She was charged with two felony counts of aggravated homicide – one based on her having a blood alcohol concentration over .08 and one that she was intoxicated. Jewkes was also charged with driving while intoxicated. On March 10 in 9th District Court, she pleaded not guilty to the three charges and requested a jury trial. The trial was set to begin Sept. 20.
She was released on $150,000 cash/surety bond with restrictions on driving, drinking or contacting the Deal family.
However, on May 4, Pinedale attorney John LaBuda filed a motion to set Jewkes’ change-of-plea hearing “at the earliest convenience of the court and counsel.”
Judge Marv Tyler set the hearing for Thursday, May 27, at 3:45 p.m., requiring Jewkes to be “personally present at said hearing.” No other documents including a plea agreement were filed before the change-of-plea hearing.
Thursday, about a dozen family and friends accompanied Jewkes and attorneys LaBuda, Rives White and John Robinson into the 9th District Courtroom, masked but sitting close together behind the defendant. Judge Tyler asked them to confirm they did not want to be socially distant.
The Deal family watched the proceeding from home, appearing on the courtroom’s large-screen monitor tilted toward the defendant.
Judge Tyler asked everyone attending to refrain from speaking aloud or recording the hearing.
He addressed the defense table: “This is unclear to me because there are three charges, essentially what charges the defendant intends to change her pleas on?”
Robinson said, “There is no plea agreement in place. She will plead ‘cold’ to counts I and III and my understanding is the state will remove Count II.”
Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson called that “accurate.”
Judge Tyler questioned Jewkes’ understanding of maximum consequences of her convictions on the aggravated homicide felony and DUI misdemeanor – jail time of 20 years, six months and fines of $10,750.
“Are you sure you want to go forward today by pleading guilty to these charges,” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Jewkes pleaded guilty and was sworn in to provide a factual basis by relating each element of each crime. She testified that she “drank too much and made a horrible, horrible decision – to drive to Jackson and I crossed over the centerline and hit a vehicle driven by Shane Deal and he died as a result of that decision.”
She said her BAC was .22 after drinking mimosas and other drinks she could not remember. Judge Tyler conditionally accepted her guilty pleas and ordered a presentence investigation report and substance abuse evaluation. That process could take six to eight weeks, he said.
“You may have to pay restitution as a result of the criminal conduct on your part,” he told Jewkes. “The victim’s family, for example.”
With “cold pleas” and no plea agreement, Crosson and Robinson will argue their recommendations for Jewkes’ sentences at a later hearing, with Judge Tyler making the final decision.