DA decides not to file criminal charges against driver in deadly boat crash

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (CHIPPEWA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) -- The Chippewa County District Attorney has decided, at this time, not to issue criminal charges against Robert Romanshek, stemming from the July 22, 2011 Boat Crash on Chippewa River. It is my understanding, however, that Mr. Romanshek will enter a no contest plea to his civil boating while intoxicated citation, in the very near future.

Before making this decision, I have reviewed all of the evidence complied in this matter, including but not limited to blood tests, police reports, DNR reports, photographs and accident reconstructions performed by various agencies. I have further consulted with several State and National boating experts regarding the evidence and facts in this case and I have taken their conclusions into account in making my decision.

While I believe there is sufficient evidence to charge this matter, there is NOT sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction in this case. I cannot prove the elements of this case beyond a reasonable doubt, as the experts involved have determined that the deceased boat driver MAY have been considerably or equally at fault for the boat collision occurring on July 22, 2011. As a result, ethically, I cannot prosecute this case.

Further, Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 20:3.8(a) - Special responsibilities of a prosecutor states as follows:

A prosecutor in a criminal case or a proceeding that could result in
deprivation of liberty shall not prosecute a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause.

A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence. Prosecutors take a lot of factors into account in determining whether or not to prosecute. These factors, among others, include,:

a. Doubt about the accused's guilt;
b. Insufficiency of admissible evidence to support a conviction;
c. The negative impact of a prosecution on the victims;
d. The availability of adequate civil remedies;

I believe there is ample reasonable doubt in this case, and that the evidence would not support a conviction if the case was brought to trial. An unsuccessful, time consuming trial would negatively impact the victims in this matter and civil law suits have been commenced as a result of this accident.

In conclusion, this tragic accident was caused by the speed of the watercraft involved, driving way too fast for the conditions, together with the operators using alcohol and drugs. This accident could have been prevented.

Remember to wear your life preserver while out on the water.

Steve Gibbs
Chippewa County District Attorney