A truck driver being charged with reckless homicide after causing a fatal multi-vehicle crash on I-55 in November 2017 seeks to stay the civil cases, arguing that continuing litigation pending the criminal proceedings would risk self-incrimination.
Mohamed Yussuf Jama of Greely, Colo. filed a motion for stay pending his criminal proceedings on Aug. 2 in the action filed by Phong Vu, as personal representative of the estate of Vivian Vu.
Jama also filed a motion for stay pending his criminal proceedings on July 6 in the case filed by Dean Bertles, as personal representative of Madisen and Hailey Bertles.
“Defendant Jama is currently facing criminal charges … for conduct that allegedly arises out of the same November 21, 2017 accident which is the subject matter of Plaintiff’s Complaint in this present civil matter,” the motions state.
Jama is currently being charged with four counts of reckless homicide – a class 3 felony – and eight counts of aggravated reckless driving – a class 4 felony, the motions state.
“Defendant Jama requests a stay of the proceedings as it relates to Jama specifically in that Jama not be required to file responsive pleadings, answer discovery directed to him, or be required to testify in deposition.
“Further, Defendant Jama will suffer substantial and irreparable prejudice should a stay as to Jama not be ordered and Jama is required to defend this action prior to resolution of the criminal proceedings.
“A stay of this matter will not prejudice Plaintiff’s interests, and any prejudice to Plaintiff is greatly outweighed by the prejudice and irreparable harm posed to Defendant Jama should this matter proceed prior to conclusion of the criminal proceedings,” the motions state.
In his supporting memorandums, the defendant argues that by responding to discovery requests, providing testimony or standing trial would expose him to the “risk of self-incrimination in the pending criminal proceedings and/or deprive Jama of the protections afforded under the Fifth Amendment.”
“Without a stay of this civil proceeding, Jama would be placed in a ‘lose-lose’ situation, having to decide between (1) testifying to defend himself in this proceeding, which may incriminate him in the parallel criminal proceeding, or (2) exercising his Fifth Amendment rights, which may effectively forfeit his defense in this matter,” the memorandums state.
However, Jama notes that the plaintiffs would still be able to proceed in discovery against defendants FAF Inc. and Keller Construction.
Jama was charged in April after he turned himself in. He will remain in custody at the Madison County jail in Edwardsville, where he is being held without bond.
The charges allege Jama was driving a 2016 Cascadia Freightliner tractor trailer in a construction zone near the Hamel exit on I-55 at a speed which was greater than reasonable and proper given the traffic conditions. The charges allege Jama failed to reduce speed appropriately and caused the fatal multi-vehicle collision.
As a result, Madisen N. Bertels, Hailey J. Bertels, Tori R. Carroll and Vivian Vu were killed, and 11 other individuals were injured in the crash.
According to a suit filed by Kevin Carroll, Tori Carroll, 20, was riding as a front seat passenger in a 2010 Kia Forte with Madisen Bertels, 17, and Hailey Bertels, 20, on Nov. 21 when the vehicle slowed due to the construction zone.
Jama allegedly crashed his truck into the Kia Forte, driving over the top of the vehicle. Carroll, 20, died as a result of her injuries on Nov. 30.
Hailey and Madisen Bertels were pronounced dead at the scene.
The suit suggests Jama may have been using a cell phone or another electronic device at the time of the crash.
According to Vu’s suit, she was riding as a passenger in a 2016 Chevrolet Express bus along with other students returning from an academic conference in Chicago when Jama caused the multi-vehicle collision. Vu, 19, suffered injuries resulting in her death on Nov. 23.
Keller Construction is named a defendant in the suits as the general contractor performing repairs and construction on an asphalt crossover on the interstate. Keller Construction also installed the traffic control devices preceding and within the construction zone.
Jama is represented by Ted L. Perryman, Korissa M. Zickrick and Anna K. Beck of Roberts Perryman PC in St. Louis.
Madison County Circuit Court case numbers 18-L-54, 18-L-301, 18-L-536