EVERETT — A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy who caused a crash that cost a Darrington-area man his legs has pleaded guilty to reckless driving and reckless endangerment, gross misdemeanors.
John Sadro appeared with his lawyer, David Allen, on Wednesday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court. He faces up to a year in jail at a sentencing hearing scheduled for next month. Prosecutors have agreed to 30 days of work release and 60 days of home detention.
“Deputy Sadro feels terrible about what happened,” Allen said after the hearing. “He is taking responsibility for his actions.”
An investigation into the April 17, 2015, crash determined that an on-duty Sadro was driving his patrol car 49 mph along Rockefeller Avenue in north Everett, where the posted speed limit is 25 mph. He ran the stop sign at 23rd Street. A westbound vehicle broadsided the patrol car, sending both vehicles spinning through the intersection.
Sadro’s car collided with a parked pickup truck. Construction worker Tom Gillette was standing at the corner of the truck, unloading some sawhorses. He was pinned between the two vehicles and Gillette’s legs later had to be amputated. He suffered other injuries, including a ruptured spleen and spinal fractures. He was hospitalized for two months and has undergone at least a dozen surgeries.
In November, Gillette and his wife settled a claim with the county for $14.3 million. The county’s insurance covered the settlement except for a $2 million deductible.
The figure also included money the county had paid to the couple to remodel their home to make it more wheelchair-friendly. The county also purchased the Gillettes an $89,000 van outfitted to accommodate the disabled.
Two other claims are pending, including from a man who was riding in the back of the patrol car. Sadro was taking the man to testify in court. The insurance company of the driver who broadsided the patrol car also filed a claim.
It took nearly a year for the Washington State Patrol to forward its investigation to prosecutors. The case was handled by Skagit County prosecutors to avoid a conflict of interest.
Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Weyrich initially filed a vehicular assault charge. The charge was amended Wednesday, sparing Sadro a felony conviction.
Sadro returned to patrol about a month after the crash. When charges were filed a year later, he was placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the criminal case. The sheriff’s office expected to complete an internal investigation. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Wednesday she didn’t know if that investigation had been finished.
Sadro will lose his license for a month. He is hoping to continue in law enforcement, Allen said. Sadro has been a deputy since 2006. He served 22 years in the U.S. Navy before that.
The 2015 crash was part of the motivation behind changes in the sheriff’s office aimed at increasing traffic safety for deputies and the entire community, Ireton said. That year there were 11 on-duty crashes that resulted in significant injuries, according to a press release.
The sheriff’s office implemented a national program, Below 100, to reduce crashes. It eliminated unauthorized pursuits, adopted a driving review board, and deputies were required to watch a presentation by a mother whose two daughters were killed by a speeding Illinois State trooper. The office also installed a telematics system in every patrol car to monitor deputies’ driving behaviors.
By the end of last year, the sheriff’s office reported a 32 percent decrease in major injury crashes and a 38 percent drop in pursuits. The department’s efforts have drawn national attention.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.