On Sept. 20, Magistrate Judge Stephen Clark reduced Patricia Beyer’s driver’s license suspension from three years to six months.
Beyer received the initial penalty, and others, in June after striking two cyclists while driving home from work. Anne Davis, 22, of Virginia, was killed. Laura Stark, 26, of Michigan, was paralyzed.
Anne’s father, William Davis, was stunned by the sentence reduction. He waited until Dec. 12 to write Clark a letter decrying the judge’s decision.
“My wife and I had been so shocked and traumatized to honestly be without words. It’s taken this long to talk about it,” William Davis said during a phone interview.
“We haven’t even shared this with our family. My son, Rob, still doesn’t know. What are we supposed to do? How do you address something as egregious as this?”
Anne Davis and Stark were members of a group called Bike & Build, a nonprofit which raises funds for affordable housing.
In July 2016, the women were on a cross-country road trip with about 25 other members. The group had nearly finished a 79-mile day over the Teton Range when Beyer struck Anne Davis and Stark on U.S. Highway 26 outside Idaho Falls.
Police cited distracted driving as the cause of the crash, but ruled out cell phone usage.
After entering a guilty plea to one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and one count of failure to maintain liability insurance, Beyer was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but 60 days suspended. She also was given two years of probation, three years with a suspended license and five years with a restricted license, in addition to fines and restitution.
Thursday marks the conclusion of Beyer’s six-month license suspension. The license will be restricted to work travel for the remaining 4.5 years of the penalty.
Given the reduction in September, William Davis called the initial sentence an “exercise in pretense.”
“… A production for momentarily public consumption providing the illusion of honoring the anguish of two parents deeply grieving the death of their child,” he wrote.
“Then, after the victim impact statement had been presented and the news media had moved on to cover other stories, you adjusted Beyer’s already insufficient sentence to further relieve her of the legal consequences of her actions.”
When William Davis presented a victim impact statement to the court in June, he was told he would be notified of a motion to alter a sentence before the hearing was held. He said he wasn’t.
A motion to reduce the sentence was filed Sept. 18, along with a motion to push the hearing up. The hearing was held two days later, instead of the usual five days or even a month later.
“Certainly the timing of the hearing affected our ability to communicate with the victims properly,” Bonneville County Prosecutor Danny Clark said.
No one from Anne Davis’ family had a chance to attend the hearing or write another victim impact statement.
“A decision was made before much of anything could be done,” William Davis said.
A successful motion to correct or reduce a sentence is usually the result of additional information not available during the initial trial, or an illegally imposed initial sentence.
Hearing minutes do not provide details regarding the prosecution’s or defense’s argument, or as to why the motion was successful.
Stephen Clark’s office did not return requests for comment, nor did Tyler Salvesen, Beyer’s public defender. Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey, who tried the case, is on vacation.
William Davis said he believes Stephen Clark is complicit in his daughter’s death.
“Your outrageous decision reintroduced for us the encompassing trauma of our dear Anne’s death and the horrific manner in which she was so senselessly killed by Beyer,” he wrote to the judge.
“… Your lack of consideration exhibits a callous disregard for the significance of the life and future promise of Anne Kimball Davis and for the permanent void inflicted upon all those who have known, loved and cherished her and do so still.”
The Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office opposed the motion to reduce Beyer’s license suspension.
Danny Clark said Beyer committed a “serious offense” and the sentence subsequently shouldn’t have been reduced, partially because Beyer had more than a dozen prior driving offenses.
“A lot of the things the father raises in his letter are excellent points, and things that we had considered throughout the course of the case,” Danny Clark said.
Salvesen filed the motion to reduce Beyer’s license suspension so she can travel between her Idaho Falls home to her job at Ririe Bar. Public transportation to Ririe is lacking, the motion said.
Ririe Bar’s owner, Devyn Barlow, submitted a character letter on behalf of Beyer, as did Megan Wall, clinical director for Idaho Falls-based Addiction and Trauma Recovery Services.
Beyer has received post-traumatic stress disorder counseling at the clinic since Aug. 16, Wall wrote, and she has “began working through her grief, loss, regret, triggers and coping skills to manage her current associated trauma symptoms.”
Wall also wrote that she doesn’t feel Beyer is “in any way a threat to society” by being allowed to have a restricted license, and that her mental health would benefit from the independence gained from transporting herself to and from work.
“I feel that she is extremely aware of the consequences of her actions for the devastating accident that occurred and is making active steps to try and better herself as a person,” Wall wrote.
William Davis, a pastor, was careful to call the incident a collision, not an accident.
Citing previous offenses, he originally advocated for a complete revocation of Beyer’s license. According to court records, Beyer has been charged with failure to maintain insurance, driving without privilege and leaving the scene of an accident, among other violations.
“She didn’t leave the scene of the accident this time because she couldn’t, having hit two human bodies at 65 or 70 mph. Her car was impaired; the windshield was smashed,” William Davis said.
He wrote the letter, which he also forwarded to Idaho’s congressional delegation, in an attempt to spur discussion over Idaho sentencing guidelines.
Idaho code dictates misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence — Beyer’s charge — is punishable with a maximum of one year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine, as well as court-determined license suspension.
“The tenants of justice are universal, and the foundations upon which valid community are established are universal. The law is meant to protect life, and when the judgment is contemptuous of the law and seems to be dismissive of life, something’s wrong,” William Davis said.
“I don’t live in Idaho. But because Beyer killed our daughter there and her blood was spilled on the ground — we’re connected in a profound way.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.