Trucker found guilty of negligent homicide in 2013 crash in Arizona

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 2/9/2015

A trucker who authorities said was on Facebook moments before crashing his rig into a parked highway patrol car and killing an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer was found guilty of negligent homicide on Friday.

Jorge Espinoza, of Yuma, Ariz., was initially charged with second-degree murder in the May 6, 2013, death of Officer Tim Huffman. Espinoza was also convicted of six counts of criminal damage and six of 13 counts of endangerment.

At the time of the incident, Espinoza was reportedly using his cellphone to look at pictures of women on Facebook when he crashed into emergency workers on an Arizona interstate and killed Huffman.

The crash occurred on eastbound Interstate 8 in Yuma County, where Espinoza was driving an empty fuel tanker at 65 mph when he collided with three police cars and two fire trucks that were responding to an earlier crash on the interstate. Huffman was in his car when the crash occurred.

Espinoza initially told police he didn’t see the cars or DPS public safety captain directing traffic around a closed lane because he was looking in his mirror at a passing truck.

The crash received national media attention after a Nov. 1 report in The Arizona Daily Star included dashcam video that purportedly shows Espinoza looking at his cell phone at the time of impact.

The video in Espinoza’s rig shows both the view in the cab and of the roadway in the moments leading up to the crash. The video shows Espinoza’s phone fly out of his hand in the crash, although the view of the driver is initially obstructed by what appears to be a wallet.

Yuma County Superior Court Judge David Haws, ordered Espinoza, who had been out of custody on $200,000 bond, be taken into custody pending sentencing, which will likely be next month, according to a report in The Yuma Sun.

Throughout the trial the prosecution had argued that Espinoza had been using his cell phone to access a social media site and did not see the wreck ahead of him in the roadway, according to The Sun. The defense, however, had argued that Espinoza’s vision was obstructed by sunlight and that DPS did not set up the lane closure at the scene of the original rollover accident, which did not give him enough time to react. The defense had also argued that is not against the law to use a cell phone while driving.

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