The district attorney for Ontario County, New York, decided to present evidence to a grand jury involving the death of driver Kevin Ward Jr., struck by three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart’s vehicle at a sprint car race on August 9 in upstate New York.
Michael Tantillo made the decision on Tuesday after reviewing evidence surrounding the incident provided to him by sheriff’s investigators. “Upon my review of all of the information contained in the entire investigation,” the prosecutor said, “I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to the grand jury for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter.”
According to Fox Sports, Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that he spent weeks examining the details of the fatal accident and that there is no evidence of criminal intent by Stewart.
Nevertheless, Stewart could be charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believe he “recklessly caused the death of another person,” according to criminal law professor Corey Rayburn Yung of the Kansas University School of Law.
The professor told USA Today that the NASCAR icon could be charged with negligent homicide as well. “The question over whether someone was reckless is a factual one, and one a prosecutor might let a jury decide,” he explained back in August.
Meanwhile, the 43-year old Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, said he “respects the time and efforts” of the Ontario County district attorney and the sheriff’s department regarding the “tragic accident.” He added, “I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation.”
NASCAR spokesman Bret Jewkes stated that, “We are aware of the completed investigation and the announced next steps…. We will monitor this process and stay in close contact with Stewart-Haas Racing. It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment on this case so we will continue to respect the process and authorities involved.”