On Wednesday, Orange County District Attorney Michael Tantillo released a statement, stating that the grand jury found that Tony Stewart will not be charged in relation to Kevin Ward Jr.’s death.
“This week an Ontario County grand jury has been meeting to hear testimony and review evidence gathered in the Tony Stewart matter, relating to the death of Kevin Ward at the Canandaigua Motor Speedway on August 9, 2014. The grand jury has completed its investigation,” the statement read. “During the course of the grand jury presentation, approximately two dozen witnesses testified. These included a number of race car drivers, racetrack employees and volunteers, two accident reconstruction experts, medical personnel, and a number of police officers. In addition, the grand jury reviewed a number of photographs and video recordings, as well as other documentary evidence.
“After listening to and questioning all of the witnesses, and reviewing all of the evidence, the grand jury has determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes; his case was “No-Billed” by the grand jury.”
During a sprint car event on August 9th at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward Jr. was spun out by Stewart. He then got out of his car to display his displeasure, when Stewart’s car would make contact with Ward, sending him sliding across the track. Ward Jr. would be transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. Tony Stewart took a couple weeks off, but returned behind the wheel at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Tantillo spoke the media following the releasement of the statement, stating that the charges of manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide were presented to the grand jury. He also revealed that at the time of his death, Ward was under the influence of marijuana, enough that would have impaired his judgment at the time.
Tony Stewart will race this weekend at Dover International Speedway and released a statement following the ruling.
“This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive,” Stewart’s statement read. “I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known.
“While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”
NASCAR released a statement through Brett Jewkes, their Cheif Communications Officer, stating, “There are no winners in tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”
The Ward family expressed disappointment following the ruling, releasing the following statement: “Our son got out of his car during caution when the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy. The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.”
Stewart’s sponsors have had his back throughout the process with Mobil 1 releasing the following statement: “We are aware that the grand jury determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart. There has been no change in our sponsorship with Tony Stewart or Stewart-Haas Racing. The accident has been a terrible tragedy for all involved and our thoughts remain with the Ward family and Tony Stewart.”