RALEIGH, N.C. — A Sampson County man pleaded no contest Wednesday to careless and reckless driving in a prison inmate's death along Interstate 40.
Frederick Henri Beaujeu-Dufour, of Clinton, was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the July 10 accident that killed Charles Wilson, 31.
A judge sentenced Beaujeu-Dufour on the lesser charge to a 30-day suspended jail term and ordered him to complete 50 hours community service. He is also on unsupervised probation and must pay a $250 fine, as well as court costs.
Beaujeu-Dufour's attorney, Rick Gammon, said his client takes full responsibility for the wreck that caused Wilson's death, is "incredibly remorseful" and wishes he could "turn the clock back in the situation."
Wilson's family, who was in court Wednesday, said they were relieved the case is over but did not want to comment further about it.
"We appreciate that Mr. Dufour has taken personal responsibility for his actions," the family said in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon. "Our focus today is on healing and on the memory of Charles."
Beaujeu-Dufour also reached a financial settlement with Wilson's family, his other attorney, Doug Parsons, said, although he would not disclose the terms of the agreement.
Wilson was part of a Wake Correctional Center work crew that was picking up trash in the Interstate 40 median near Lake Wheeler Road when Beaujeu-Dufour lost control of his sport utility vehicle and skidded into the median, hitting several people.
Wilson died, and another inmate and a correctional officer were injured.
Lawsuit Over Inmate Safety Possible
Chris Nichols, an attorney for the Wilson family, said the family is still considering a lawsuit against the state.
The case is not about Beaujeu-Dufour, he said, but about the overriding issue of the safety of inmate work crews in North Carolina.
The family maintains Wilson would still be alive had the work crew's supervisors not violated state policies when it failed to put up signs warning drivers that work was happening in the area.
Zack Kendall, a security specialist with the Division of Prisons Administration, said Wednesday that as a result of the accident that killed Wilson, the Department of Correction has temporarily pulled all work crews from four-lane roads in Wake County with a speed limit in excess of 55 mph.
"We're closely examining what we need to do to improve safety," Kendall said.
The DOC is working with the Department of Transportation to heighten work crew visibility and awareness. Among ideas are talks to increasing the sizes of highway work zones.
What ultimately will come out of the talks, Kendall said, is a pilot program by the DOT and DOC that will be launched in Wake County before going statewide.
"I think there's mutual concern for both agencies to get it done as quickly as possible," Kendall said.
He said there are 172 state work crews from minimum- and medium- security prisons averaging about eight workers across the state. In Wake County, there are 14.
Wilson was not the first inmate struck by a passing vehicle. A month earlier, Andre Voznyuk, 19, was injured when he was struck by a passing vehicle on Interstate 26 in Henderson County, according to the DOC.
Corrections officials also said a vehicle struck and killed an inmate working on I-40 in Iredell County in May 2006.