The 17-year-old Valparaiso boy who was charged as an adult after police said
that he drove a car into a semi while fleeing a detective in August 2007—an
accident in which one of his passengers died—has entered a plea agreement
which could result in a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Aaron Lee Phelps has pleaded guilty to one count of resisting law enforcement
by use of a motor vehicle and causing the death of another person, a Class B
felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years in prison, Porter County
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune on
Wednesday; and one count of resisting law enforcement by use of a motor
vehicle and causing serious bodily injury to another person, a Class C felony
punishable by a term of two to eight years in prison.
A person convicted of both counts would normally be eligible for a maximum
term of 28 years. But the so-called plea-and-argue agreement caps Phelps’
sentence at no more than 20 years and floors it at no less than six years,
Bennett said. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 10 before
Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper
In exchange for Phelps’ plea, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office dropped four
other charges against him: reckless homicide, a Class C felony; one other
count of resisting law enforcement, a Class C felony; possession of
marijuana/hashish, a Class D felony; and obstructing an emergency medical
person, a Class B misdemeanor.
According to the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, at 2:15 Aug. 8 a PCSP
detective executed a traffic stop on Phelps on Vale Park Road. As the
detective was walking toward Phelps’ vehicle, police said, Phelps rapidly
accelerated, traveling northbound on Silhavy Road and then eastbound on Vale
Park Drive at a high rate of speed. At the intersection of Ind. 49, police
said, Phelps ran a red light and collided with the side of a semi-tractor
trailer southbound on Ind. 49, his car becoming wedged between the tractor’s
rear tires and the front of the box trailer.
The detective, another officer, and EMS personnel attempted to remove Phelps
and the three other occupants of the car, police said, at which point Phelps
began fighting with rescue workers, injuring one of the officers. Eventually
Phelps and two of the passengers were removed but one of them, Brandie
Broussard, 16, of Metarie, La., was trapped in the back seat behind the
driver. Broussard was transported to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus as
soon as she was extricated but she later died there.
Circuit Court Magistrate Edward Nemeth later granted the petition of the
Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to waive Phelps from juvenile jurisdiction into
adult court, after noting that on three previous occasions Phelps had been
adjudicated in juvenile court, that he continued to re-offend while on formal
probation, and that at the time of the accident he was facing four pending
charges for offenses which allegedly occurred while on probation, including
two counts of burglary.
“The acts (Phelps) is alleged to have committed are extremely serious,”
Nemeth stated in his ruling. “To have him remain in the juvenile justice
system when he has previously demonstrated his unwillingness or inability to
comply with the juvenile court and probation rules would be contrary to the
best interests of safety and welfare of the community.”