DA Declines to File Criminal Charges Against Alleged DUI Motorist

US News reports that a federal judge has sentenced a Wapato man to almost five years in prison after being found guilty of DUI and killing four people from the Yakama Reservation in Washington State.

Court documents show that on May 31, US Federal Court Judge Sal Mendoza sentenced 28-year-old Leland James Finley to nearly five years in prison. Finley had pleaded guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter resulting in serious bodily injury or death. 

In the March 2019 fatal crash, Finley was driving an SUV with five passengers along US Highway 97, just south of Toppenish, when he pulled out in front of an 18-wheeler at an intersection near the highway. The truck driver was unable to avoid the collision.

Four of the six people inside Finley’s SUV reportedly died at the scene. They include a 61-year-old woman, a 41-year-old woman, a 39-year-old woman, and a 21-year-old man. 

One other person, whose identity was not released, and Finley were injured.   

The tragedy left many within the Yakama Confederation of Nations and Tribes communities devastated. The Yakama Nation Outreach, the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington  Traffic Safety Commission recently released a report which estimated that at least 53% of all traffic fatalities occurring on reservation lands have been alcohol-related.  

The response from the Yakama Nation and the law enforcement agencies is focused on increased enforcement, education, and community outreach.

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