TRAVERSE CITY — A Kingsley man and a local judge’s son both face drunken driving charges after a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 31.
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney on Wednesday authorized misdemeanor charges against Travis Gary-Leinier Ingersoll, 25, of Kingsley, and Michael Joseph Stepka, 24, of Traverse City, after a month of waiting for a final police report on the April 10 crash.
The report details what Cooney described as the drivers’ “horseplay at a high speed” that led to Stepka’s car careening into two utility poles.
“It’s very bad conduct, without a doubt,” Cooney said.
Ingersoll faces misdemeanor charges of failure to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident, possession of marijuana, operating while intoxicated and an open alcohol container. His blood-alcohol level tested at .137.
Stepka, who’s 86th District Court Chief Judge Michael S. Stepka’s son, faces an operating while intoxicated charge. His blood-alcohol level tested at .103.
Cooney said the blood test results held up the final police report, which also included a list of Stepka’s numerous fractures and other injuries. He called it a “close call” that Ingersoll didn’t receive a more serious charge of moving violation causing serious impairment.
“It’s difficult to argue that Ingersoll should be held to a more serious charge when Stepka engaged in the same wrongful conduct and can only be charged with misdemeanor drunk driving,” he said.
The police report states Ingersoll and Stepka traveled side-by-side going “very fast” when Ingersoll’s vehicle spun out of control on a curve near Three Mile Road and sideswiped Stepka’s car.
Cooney said that behavior didn’t match Michigan’s legal definition of drag racing, which involves two or more vehicles that accelerate from the same spot.
Eighty-sixth District Court Administrator Carol Stocking said she expects the elder Stepka to excuse himself from the case and awaits a final decision soon from district court’s other two judges.
Cooney said the elder Stepka’s position didn’t affect how he came up with charges.
“Obviously, I’m requesting a charge of drunk driving; he could not have been charged with a more serious crime,” Cooney said. “I want to add that all of these are allegations, and Mr. Ingersoll and Mr. Stepka are both innocent until some adjudication is made in this case by either a judge or jury.”