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November 8, 2013

Charges dropped against hospitalized teen

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney dismissed a criminal charge against a Traverse City Central student who remains hospitalized after a July traffic crash.

Ian Hathaway, 17, suffered serious injuries in the two-vehicle crash and continues his recovery in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids. But authorities didn’t know his medical status before they filed a warrant this week that sought a misdemeanor charge against Hathaway for injuries a passenger suffered.

“This was an error,” Cooney said. “The decision did not take into account the current condition of the defendant. If it had, we would have certainly held off on any charging decision until (we) knew more about it.”

Cooney dismissed the charge today after the Record-Eagle ran a story about Hathaway’s case and condition. He apologized to Hathaway’s family and said he would contact them personally.

Hathaway’s mother, Erika Harrigan, briefly spoke with a Record-Eagle reporter and said she hadn’t yet heard from Cooney.

A crash investigation found Hathaway on July 25 turned his Jeep Laredo from Potter Road into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer on Garfield Road. Hathaway’s friend and passenger, Tyler James Morse, 17, suffered an ankle and head injury in the crash, but didn’t want to pursue charges.

The prosecutor’s office authorized a misdemeanor moving violation causing serious injury charge against Hathaway after investigators found marijuana in the crash wreckage and in the teen’s bloodstream.

Cooney said his office was wrong to believe Hathaway’s condition had substantially improved after the crash; Hathaway can only answer a few questions at a time and needs rehabilitation to relearn walking.

Cooney said his office is reviewing its internal policy to avoid such mistakes. He said he didn’t know Hathaway was charged until after the fact.

“Because it was a misdemeanor charge, I (didn’t) review it myself, but I certainly take full responsibility,” Cooney said.

The prosecutor’s office could revisit the case in the future, but Cooney said that was unlikely.

“At some point it doesn’t make sense to prosecute. There’s got to be a purpose to it,” he said.

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