GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former assistant prosecutor charged in a Grand Rapids crash that injured a man will avoid felony punishment.
A jury Tuesday found Josh Kuiper not guilty of a felony charge of reckless driving causing serious injury, but guilty of a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving in connection to the November 2016 crash.
Kuiper previously admitted to the less serious reckless driving charge.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour following the trial, which started Monday and focused on the severity of Dan Empson's injury.
Kuiper injured Empson when he hit Empson's parked car while driving the wrong way down a one-way street after a night of drinking.
Tuesday, Kuiper’s defense team called orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frederic Levin to the stand to discuss Empson’s condition following the crash.
Levin called Empson’s injuries “minor” and “trivial,” saying x-rays showed his fracture had fully healed after about 2.5 months.
The defense rested without calling Kuiper to the stand.
Jurors heard from another orthopedic surgeon Monday. Dr. Tim Lenters testified Empson suffered a fractured bone in his shoulder and was in a sling for six weeks. The doctor also testified that type of injury typically takes between six and nine months to fully heal.
Under cross-examination from the defense, Lenters said that in Empson's case, the fracture fully healed after about 2.5 months, and conceded he had called the injury a “minor fracture” during an earlier hearing.
Empson, who also took the stand, said the injury affected his job and home life, particularly while he was in the sling. He's still feeling the effects, he said.
"I still haven't played golf, I still haven't gone skiing. There's still other stuff I haven't done in the last couple years because I don't feel quite as comfortable as I should," he said. "There's still times where I try to throw a football and I get a little twinge."
Once the prosecution finished calling witnesses, the defense asked for a directed verdict of not guilty. If granted, the judge would essentially take the verdict out of the jury's hands and find Kuiper not guilty because of a lack of evidence. Directed verdicts are often requested but rarely issued.
Judge Joseph Rossi didn't rule on Kuiper's attorney's motion Monday, saying he would do so either before or after the jury makes it decision.
Kuiper is not charged with drunken driving in the case because he was never given a breathalyzer or a blood test after the crash. One Grand Rapids Police Department officer was fired and two others suspended for their roles in an apparent cover-up during their response to the crash.
The fired officer is suing to get his job back.