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Truck driver faces 40 years in prison, fine

The driver accused of killing five Las Vegas bicyclists outside of Boulder City late last year faces up to 40 years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000 after recently pleading guilty to two counts of driving under the influence resulting in death.

On April 21, Jordan Barson, 45, pleaded guilty to the two category B felonies for his actions Dec. 10 when he plowed his box truck into a group of bicyclists on U.S. Highway 95 near Searchlight, killing five of them.

Barson’s guilty pleas account for each of the fatalities and show that he was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash. Records show that he had nine times the amount of methamphetamine in his system needed to be considered legally impaired.

Defense attorney Kelsey Bernstein called her client’s plea agreement fair.

“I believe that it is fundamentally just because it does take into account both legal issues with the case along with the overarching point,” she said. “We want to do justice by the victims, but we want to make sure the process is fair. On the defense side, our job is to make sure he gets a fair shake, and I feel like that was accomplished in this case.”

He was originally charged with five counts of driving under the influence resulting in death, two counts of driving under the influence resulting substantial bodily harm and seven counts of reckless driving.

“Jordan Barson does sincerely feel remorse and wanted to give the victims and the victims’ families closure as soon as possible,” Bernstein said.

Killed in the crash were Erin Michelle Ray, 39; Gerrard Suarez Nieva, 41; Michael Todd Murray, 57; Aksoy Ahmet, 48; and Tom Trauger, 57.

According to the guilty plea agreement, the first count of driving under the influence resulting in death accounts for the deaths of Trauger, Ahmet and Ray. The second count accounts for the deaths of Murray and Nievas as well as the substantial bodily harm to Jose Vasquez and Jerome Ducrocq.

A friend of Ray’s, Sarah Ritter, said she discussed the guilty plea with her family.

“I would hate for this process to drag on, be uglier than necessary, or make this entire process so much worse for all of the families affected,” she wrote in a message to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Barson is being held in the Clark County Detention Center until his sentencing hearing at 8:30 a.m., June 9.

For each count, he faces between two and 20 years in prison as well as a $2,000 to $5,000 fine. He is not eligible for probation, according to the guilty plea agreement.

The bicyclists were with a group of about 20 who set out from Henderson to complete the roughly 130-mile Nipton Loop.

All of the bicyclists who were killed or injured were seeking cover from the wind and riding behind the group’s safety escort vehicle when the box truck Barson was driving crashed into them, according to a Nevada Highway Patrol report.

David Merrill, the driver of the safety escort vehicle and another cyclist were also injured.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter David Ferrara and Review-Journal staff writer Sabrina Schnur contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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