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Driver who turned in front of El Tour racers takes plea deal

The 91-year-old man accused of causing a collision that injured several El Tour de Tucson bicyclists Nov. 22 pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of attempted leaving the scene of an accident.

William Arthur Wilson, who has been living in Georgia since shortly after the collision, accepted a plea agreement to avoid trial.

The deal gives a Superior Court judge discretion in sentencing him to either a felony or a misdemeanor.The sentence will be based on mitigating and aggravating factors in a presentencing report written for the judge.

The sentencing was set for June 22 at 1:30 p.m. in Judge Deborah Bernini’s court.

The accident caused serious injury to Gary L. Stuebe of Surprise.

Steube’s family objected to the plea deal in a letter to county prosecutor Bruce Chalk. Details on his injury and recovery were not available Wednesday.

Wilson also faces a civil suit filed by Steube’s family seeking damages for Steube’s injuries.

Ward commented at the plea hearing Wednesday that the damages “are extensive.”

Wilson could be offered probation or sentenced to prison for four months to up to two years. The maximum probation period possible is three years.

If the crime is treated as a misdemeanor, Wilson also would face a maximum fine of $2,500. If the judge decides to sentence Wilson as a felon, he would face $150,000 in fines.

A Pima County grand jury indicted him Dec. 19 on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving serious physical injury. He faced up to 13 1/2 years in prison had he been convicted of that charge.

Sheriff’s deputies said Wilson turned in front of oncoming riders, causing five of them to collide with his car during the annual bicycle race.

Wilson was required by state law to remain at the scene of the incident until he had given his name, driver’s license number and vehicle registration to a sheriff’s deputy, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said in December.

On Wednesday, he told Court Commissioner Deborah Ward that he got out of his vehicle after the collision but then drove away because of “a lot of yelling and confusion.”

He told Ward the incident was “an accident.”

He did not return to the scene of the collision later that day.

Wilson contacted an attorney the next day and the attorney contacted law enforcement.

Wilson remained out of custody on his own recognizance and was not permitted to drive, pending a trial or plea.

He moved to Georgia shortly afterward.

Wilson is a retired engineer who worked on the top-secret Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M., during World War II. He helped to assemble the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, according to a 2007 article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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