Nearly 14 months after the fatal U-Haul crash at the 2011 Yale-Harvard tailgate, Brendan Ross ’13 has agreed to enter a probationary program that will allow him to maintain a clean record.
At a Feb. 1 hearing in New Haven Superior Court, Ross was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a program that offers first-time offenders a path to a clean record upon completion of probation without violation. Under the plea deal, his charges have been revised to reckless driving and reckless endangerment. Ross had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle and reckless driving — charges that would have precluded him from participating in the probationary program.
Ross was driving a U-Haul into the tailgate area before the Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 19, 2011, when the vehicle accelerated and swerved into the Yale Bowl’s D-Lot around 9:39 a.m., killing 30-year-old Nancy Barry and injuring Sarah Short SOM ’13 and Harvard employee Elizabeth Dernbach. As part of the resolution, the 22-year-old will have to complete a total of 400 hours of community service at a location “that seems acceptable to the state’s attorney office,” Ross’ lawyer William F. Dow III ’63 said.
Dow told the News that he and Ross are “happy about the resolution,” which he said was reached in agreement with Barry’s family and the two other women involved in the crash.
“Brendan Ross is an outstanding young man who was involved in a tragic accident,” Dow said in a statement last Friday. “He will emerge from this without a criminal record, but the memory of that tragedy remains. Brendan and his family have extended their condolences to Ms. Barry’s family when the accident occurred. Ms. Barry remains in their prayers.”
Barry was transported to the Yale-New Haven Hospital shortly after the crash and pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. Short and Dernbach were treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital and St. Raphael’s Hospital respectively and released in the following days.
Ross passed a field sobriety test at the scene of the accident and was taken to the New Haven Police Department headquarters for questioning. Immediately following the accident, the NHPD launched a forensics investigation, which concluded in early April.
A day after the Yale-Harvard accident, Dow attributed the crash to an “apparent … malfunction” of the U-Haul, which had been rented by members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. But an NHPD mechanic determined the truck’s brake system to have been in proper working order.
After the NHPD forwarded the results of its investigation to the state’s attorney’s office for review, Ross turned himself in for arrest on May 4, 2012, as part of a deal reached between Dow and the state’s attorney. Shortly afterward, he was released with a written agreement to return to court. According to the arrest warrant application prepared by the NHPD, Ross “applied no brakes [on the U-Haul] as he traveled through the crowd” and “failed to maintain control of his vehicle, and, instead, accelerated into a crowd of people.”
Last September, Ross pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, a criminal act that carries a maximum penalty of $2,500 fine and six months of imprisonment under Connecticut law. The court ordered Ross to report back in January, as his attorney worked to strike a deal with the state that would revise the charges and make Ross eligible for accelerated rehabilitation.
Dow said in Friday’s statement that Ross is grateful for “the compassion shown by the Barry family and the other two victims” and for the “understanding approach taken by the State” in the resolution of the case.
“It was a long and difficult road,” Dow told the News Sunday night. “We did exceedingly well and part of our ability to do so was because of the compassion of the very family of the victims.
While Ross will have no criminal record, he still faces at least two civil lawsuits.
In April 2012, Short filed a memorandum with the New Haven Superior Court claiming that she had suffered “severe and painful injuries” from the crash and seeking at least $15,000 in damages from either Ross or the U-Haul Company of Connecticut. Short declined to comment on the legal proceedings against Ross.
Barry’s mother, Paula St. Pierre, also plans to file a suit after criminal proceedings conclude, according to Ralph Sbrogna, her Worcester, Mass.-based personal injury lawyer. Barry’s family could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Yale tightened its tailgating regulations in response to last year’s crash, banning beer kegs and U-Hauls and containing tailgates to a “student tailgate village” zone that would be set up before 8:30 a.m. and closed by kickoff.