Brittini Benton of Sunderland changes plea in April 2012 crash that killed UMass student Daniel Haley
NORTHAMPTON — A Sunderland woman admitted in court that while she cannot remember any details of the 2012 motor vehicle accident that killed a 24-year-old University of Massachusetts student, the state has enough evidence to convict her.
That April 14, 2012, crash killed Daniel Haley, 24, who was riding his motorcycle on Route 116 in Hadley, returning to Amherst from Pittsfield where he grew up. Haley was to have graduated from the UMass chemical engineering program on Friday.
In Hampshire Superior Court Monday, Brittini Benton, 25, of 118 Reservation Road, entered a so-called Alford plea on three of seven counts against her, changing a previous plea of not guilty on all charges resulting from the accident.
By agreeing to an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the state has enough evidence for a conviction.
Benton entered the Alford plea on charges of negligent motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence, operating under the influence with negligence and serious bodily injury and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
Four counts against Benton — manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (motor vehicle) and operating under the influence of alcohol (second or subsequent offense) — were dropped.
Judge Bertha Josephson released Benton on her own recognizance on the conditions that she avoid alcohol and drugs, submit to random screenings, and not drive a motor vehicle. She is scheduled for sentencing at 2 p.m. June 27.
Haley had worked for several years at the UMass Fine Arts Center where he specialized in audio setup and mixing. He also managed crews of student workers.
According to court records, Benton was traveling south in the northbound lane of Route 116 about 2:20 a.m. when she struck the motorcycle operated by Haley, killing him, and collided with a second vehicle driven by a 57-year-old Leyden man, sending him to the hospital with broken bones.
According to investigators, beer, liquor and marijuana were found in Benton’s vehicle when it was searched. According to court records, a test of blood taken from her the morning of the crash showed her blood alcohol level was 0.179 percent, more than twice the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts.
In January 2008, Benton was arrested in Hadley on a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol after her car struck a tree, according to police reports. She later submitted to facts sufficient for a guilty finding on the charge, and lost her license for 210 days, was fined $550 and completed a drug and alcohol education program.