Charges dropped against driver who killed two
Manslaughter charges have been dropped against a 15-year-old
youth who killed two motorcyclists while driving on a learner's
permit in New Mexico on Memorial Day weekend 2004.
District Attorney Donald Gallegos, who dropped the charges
against Gerald Bailon, said that, unfortunately, manslaughter
charges wouldn't stand up in New Mexico court. The problem appears
to be wrapped up in the legal requirements necessary to charge
someone with manslaughter, or the greater charge of vehicular
According to New Mexico Supreme Court cases Gallegos cited, the
driver must be committing an unlawful act at the time of the deaths.
Driving with a learner's permit without an adult in the vehicle, as
Bailon was, isn't considered "unlawful'' in the narrow context
spelled out in those cases, Gallegos said. Therefore, he could not
"I think the case speaks for itself,'' Gallegos said on January
14. "I think there's been a whole lot of unwarranted reaction to
this case. Even though it was severe, even though it was very
terrible, but actually, legally, as to what I can do for charges, or
could have done, it just wasn't there.''
On May 30, 2004, Bailon was driving a pickup truck alone near
Taos, New Mexico, when his truck crossed the center line as it went
around a curve, striking a motorcycle ridden by Leslie Walker
(above), 59, of Colorado, killing him. Walker's passenger, Kathleen
Pullora (below), 45, lost her leg below the knee as a result of the
Timothy Serles, 41, and his wife, Jennifer, 39, were riding a
bike along with Walker. Timothy died later from injuries he
sustained in a crash while avoiding the pickup.
LeAnn Short, Walker's daughter, was stunned to learn that
officials had dropped the charges.
"I'm just dumbfounded. I just can't believe it," Short said.
Gallegos said the case has been referred to another district
attorney's office in nearby Clovis for review, including whether
vehicular homicide charges should be filed.
"Now, the victims are very adamant that there may have been some
reckless driving involved (which would be an "unlawful act" under
New Mexico law), although we didn't have that information in the
beginning,'' Gallegos said. "I have taken myself out of this case
for review. The case file is being sent to another district
attorney's office for review and possible prosecution if they find
any or enough evidence to do so."
The latest news leaves Short wondering if justice will be served
in the case.
"For him to not have to pay any consequences for that is tragic,"
she said. "For this kid to not have to own up to that is wrong."
But Gallegos says that in cases like this, the law does not allow
him to act.
"This isn't the first case (like this),'' he said. "I had one
with a logger who killed five people because he fell asleep at the
wheel. I had another one with a gentleman who was going into
diabetic shock, and swerved off the road and killed two people.
There was one just recently in Albuquerque where a lady ran a
stoplight and killed, I believe, it was a motorcyclist. And New
Mexico law just does not have that rising to the felony level."
The American Motorcyclist Association will continue to monitor
© 2005, American Motorcyclist Association