Danny Simpson’s 1977 Ford F-250 truck after crashing into a gravel pit owned by his parents. (Photo provided in court documents)

Danny Simpson’s 1977 Ford F-250 truck after crashing into a gravel pit owned by his parents. (Photo provided in court documents)

Tulalip man given intermittent prison time for crash that killed friend

Danny Simpson was sentenced to three days per week for a year after backing his truck off a cliff into a gravel pit, killing Anthony Craig.

TULALIP — A Tulalip tribal member was sentenced to a year of intermittent confinement Wednesday for crashing his car at the bottom of his family’s gravel pit, killing his friend.

U.S. District Court Judge Tana Lin sentenced Danny Simpson, 40, to confinement for three days per week for a year, then another two years of probation. Under state law, judges can assign a defendant to remain in custody “during nights, weekends, or other intervals of time” during the first year of the term of probation.

On Feb. 1, 2020, Simpson, his wife and Anthony “Tony” Craig, 33, had been drinking at a bar in Stanwood. After midnight, Simpson drove his 1977 Ford F-250 truck to a gravel pit on the Tulalip Reservation south of 140th Street NW, also known as Firetrail Road. The pit is owned by his parents, according to court documents.

Craig was the sole passenger in the truck. Simpson had recently modified the truck to be suitable for off-road use, court documents said. Unbeknownst to Simpson, the truck only had one functional brake.

The sand and gravel pit was poorly lit and had a 40-foot cliff face. Simpson was aware of the cliff, prosecutors wrote.

Around 1:15 a.m., the truck overheated and stalled. Simpson backed the truck off the cliff, court documents said. The truck landed upside down at the bottom, killing Craig.

An analysis of Simpson’s blood showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.13, well over the legal limit of 0.08. Simpson also had benzodiazepines in his system, according to court documents.

In October, Simpson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He admitted he knew it was dangerous to drive drunk near a cliff face.

Federal prosecutors recommended 18 months in prison followed by three years of probation. The defense recommended a year of intermittent confinement.

Lin sided with the defense.

“Simpson ended the life of a man who will never be able to play catch with his son, go to activities at his son’s school, or watch his son grow into manhood,” assistant U.S. attorney J. Tate London wrote in court papers. “Simpson selfishly took all this away from the victim, his son, and their family.”

Simpson’s lawyer, David Smith, wrote that his client’s dependence on drugs and alcohol have affected him since he was young. Since the fatal crash, Simpson has checked himself into rehab three times.

“He deeply regrets driving while intoxicated and causing his friend’s death,” Smith wrote. “For the first time since his youth, Mr. Simpson is sober, celebrates his 15 months of sobriety, and is committed to remaining sober so he can be a role model for his children and his community.”

In 2022, Craig’s ex-wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Tulalip Tribal Court against Simpson and his parents, seeking damages on behalf of their son. The parties agreed to stay the lawsuit until the resolution of Simpson’s criminal case, according to court documents.

In a letter submitted to the court, Craig’s father said the pain he endured is “constant and paralyzing.”

“My heart hurts, not only for myself, but for my grandson who will never know how much his father loved him,” he wrote.

Craig had used fitness as a way to overcome hurdles in his life, according to an obituary. He owned a gym on the reservation, Zone of Change Fitness, and was training for bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions.

“Tony never knew an enemy and tried to enrich anyone’s life who crossed his path. He saw the good in everyone and lifted spirits of each and every person who did cross his path,” the obituary read. “Carry on your legacy, Tony and watch over us. You have left a void in our hearts and we will miss you immensely.”

Craig left behind a son, who was 3 years old at the time.

Simpson expressed the “deepest remorse” for his decision to drink and drive that day.

“I carry great shame for the decision made that night,” Simpson wrote. “Both Tony and I come from the same small tribal community where we were raised to hold one another up, to pick one another up when down, and to stand together during adversity. I have failed Tony as a friend and as a brother, as I have failed his son and others in his family. My heart goes out to them and if given the opportunity to trade places with Tony I would take my death over his.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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