Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer again publicly said his office cannot file charges in a collision that killed a popular Laguna Niguel teacher.
Spitzer released a letter he sent to the family of the victim, Scott Clark, explaining how multiple reviews of the evidence by experts left prosecutors without a clear view of whether a driver arrested in the case committed a crime or was at fault.
Clark, who was 55, was a popular Laguna Niguel Elementary School fifth-grade teacher training for a triathlon when he was struck by a car Jan. 25, 2017, in a crosswalk at Alicia Parkway and Niguel Road in Laguna Niguel. The collision occurred about 6:20 p.m., and Clark, who was rushed to an area hospital, never regained consciousness.
Jamie Mulford of Laguna Niguel was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, and later charged with vehicular manslaughter, but the charge was later dropped last January.
Spitzer, in the letter to attorney Rick Welsh, said his office “exhausted all possible investigative resources to determine whether someone could be held criminally responsible for the heartbreaking events of that night.”
Spitzer noted that his office “spent nearly $60,000 consulting experts in attempts to determine whether there was criminal culpability on the part of either party.”
Welsh said road rage led to the crash, which killed Clark.
Mulford was driving a 2010 Mini Cooper and she crashed into a 2014 Mercedes-Benz.
“The experts were unanimous in their conclusions,” Spitzer wrote. “Based on all of the available evidence, we are unable to legally and ethically file criminal charges in this case.”
Mulford was charged in November 2017, before expert Wes Vandiver was hired to review evidence. Vandiver has been an expert on many high-profile cases in Orange County, including the 2009 crash that killed Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, and was once called to testify in a case in Australia.
Vandiver’s analysis led prosecutors to dismiss charges.
Spitzer agreed to again review the case shortly after he took office a year ago.
Spitzer assigned an investigator in his office to review the evidence again, and he “concurred with important findings made by Mr. Vandiver,” Spitzer wrote.
The investigator, Mike Hale, “independently established that there were at least two reasonable interpretations of what occurred that night based on the physics and limitations of the Mercedes-Benz and evidence from the scene,” Spitzer wrote.
Spitzer then hired another independent firm to review the evidence, and that company’s expert agreed with Vandiver and Hale. Spitzer noted that the law requires juries to find in favor of a defendant if they are presented with two competing legal theories that are “reasonable.”
Spitzer also noted the investigators could not confirm road rage factored into the collision.
Welsh told City News Service he will make public records requests of the evidence, “So we can hopefully understand what the basis is” of Spitzer’s decision.
“It seems contrary to common sense to me,” Welsh said. “But we’re significantly hamstrung because the investigation is confidential and we’re not privy to all of the information.”
A lawsuit is pending against Mulford, who sued Clark’s family for defamation, but that was dismissed, Welsh said.
“That was another significant trauma for my client,” Welsh said of the lawsuit. “It was just awful.”
The Mercedes-Benz driver reached a settlement, Welsh said.
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