Originally created 07/17/04

Hockey player indicted for car crash that killed teammate



ATLANTA -- Atlanta Thrashers forward Dany Heatley was indicted Friday on vehicular homicide and five other charges for the 2003 car wreck that killed his teammate, Dan Snyder.

If convicted on all counts, the hockey star faces up to 20 years in prison and fines totaling $5,000.

Heatley, 23, was driving his black 2002 Ferrari convertible at a high rate of speed when it ran into a brick pillar and iron fence outside a condominium on Lenox Road in the city's Buckhead area on Sept. 29. Snyder, 25, was the passenger.

The posted speed limit on the road was 35 mph. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Heatley's car was traveling between 60 and 90 mph. He would not be more specific.

"Citizens must be held accountable when they ignore traffic laws, which are there to protect and safeguard all of us," Howard said as he announced the grand jury indictment.

"All of us have driven too fast at one time or another, but this case involves extreme speed in relationship to this curving, well-traveled road in a residential area," he said.

Heatley, a Canadian citizen, is charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, second-degree vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding.

Heatley's attorney, Ed Garland, said his client was involved in a horrible accident, but that the case does not justify a homicide charge.

"We don't want any sentence that would put him in jail, destroy his career, or have him deported from the United States," he said.

Garland said the defense wants a chance to determine if the car Heatley drove had any mechanical defects because he said Ferraris are often unstable vehicles. He added that Heatley did not remember the details of the accident due to a concussion he sustained.

Howard said he would be amenable to a plea agreement, and Garland said while the two have not had "formal" discussions about a deal, the two have been talking. Howard did not say what he would consider an appropriate sentence.

There is no mandatory prison sentence for these crimes, giving the judge considerable discretion, Howard said. A sentence of probation is one option for the judge, he added.

A preliminary hearing would be set later, Howard said.

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell still plans on Heatley joining the team in training camp in September.

"Throughout the process, we felt that, and continue to feel that, the end result will show that this was truly an accident, and Dany will be ready to play," Waddell said.

Heatley broke his jaw and tore two ligaments in his knee in the crash. Snyder died a few days later from head injuries. Authorities said Heatley had consumed some alcohol, but was not intoxicated at the time of the wreck.

Heatley was in Canada on Friday preparing for the hockey World Cup, the team said. He was not immediately available for comment. Howard said he would not seek to have Heatley held in jail before a trial.

Snyder's mother is not opposed to the indictments, Howard said. She told Howard that she and her family do not want to be involved in the trial.

"This is clearly a tragic example for everyone, especially our young people, on how horrible the consequences can be for an innocent victim when a driver chooses to ignore common-sense safety rules," Howard said.

The Snyder family released a statement via the Thrashers maintaining their support for Heatley.

"Our feelings have never changed and we continue to support Dany and the entire Heatley family. Despite our personal feelings in this matter, we respect the responsibility of the district attorney's office and the legal process."