Former combat medic who grazed trooper while driving on U.S. 101 avoids felony

Staff writerMarch 21, 2014 

A judge sentenced a former Marine combat medic to 30-days electronic home monitoring Friday for failing to stop in the pickup he was driving after it grazed a Washington State Patrol trooper who had exited her patrol car on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 101.

The April 15, 2013 collision on U.S. Highway 101 north near Mud Bay caused WSP Trooper Tricia Krantz to miss work for four months. The 13-year veteran of the patrol said outside court that she suffered a hip and and a disc injury after being struck.

Had the pickup Matthew Nye was driving been just inches closer to Krantz as she walked back to her patrol car during her traffic stop, she said she would have been killed.

"I'm just happy I'm alive," she said outside court Friday.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch adopted Nye's 30-day electronic home monitoring sentence Friday after it was jointly recommended by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Wheeler, and Nye's defense attorney G. Saxon Rodgers.

Nye does not have to begin his 30-day electronic home monitoring sentence until September, because he is allowed to continue his work as a commercial fisherman in Alaska this spring and summer. He also can serve his EHM under work release.

Under Nye's plea deal, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor traffic offenses: gross misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor hit and run. Originally, Thurston County prosecutors had charged Nye with felony hit and run.

Nye, 27, had no prior criminal history until the incident with the WSP trooper last year.

Krantz said in court she's "not very happy" Wheeler agreed to the plea deal that allowed Nye to avoid a felony. "He's very lucky he's not in prison," Krantz said.

But Wheeler said that after careful consideration, the prosecutor's office agreed that the plea deal was the best way to ensure a conviction in the case.

"It was a difficult factual case," Wheeler said. "I'd have to prove that he knew he hit her. There was substantial exposure to a not guilty verdict."

Rodgers said he believes his client is telling the truth about not realizing he had struck Krantz during the collision. Rodgers added that as a former Marine combat medic who served in Iraq, Nye would have stopped his pickup to give aid to Krantz if he knew he had struck her.

Rodgers added that there "was just a minimal contact" Nye's pickup had with Krantz - part of the pickup struck part of her Taser on her utility belt.

Rodgers said the 30 days of EHM is a fair and just resolution of the case, one that allows Nye to "continue to work and be a responsible citizen."

"My client is adamant, he has been from the get go, that he had no idea he hit her," Rodgers said. Rodgers added that his client was negligent in driving too close to the shoulder.

Nye apologized to Krantz in court, but said he had no idea he had struck her. "My hats off to you for the job that you do," he added.

Hirsch, for her part, said the case was a "tough one," but agreed to the joint recommendation by the prosecution and defense counsel. Hirsch added it is unclear whether Nye knew he struck Krantz, but said "he was negligent and he was careless."

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; jpawloski@theolympian.com

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