4/9/2014 11:40:00 AM Supreme Court won't hear appeal in Winslow 'Corner' conviction
The corner in Winslow, where prosecutors said John Larsgard drove through a crowd at the town’s annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival. The park opened in 1999 to commemorate the town’s place in the Eagles song “Take It Easy.” (Cronkite News Service photo by Michelle Price)
His attorney said John Larsgard was on medications that made it hard for him to fully defend himself at trial, one of several issues raised on an appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court declined, without comment, to take the case. (Photo courtesy the Arizona Department of Corrections)
Timeline of the case
- September 2011: John Larsgard is arrested in Winslow after driving into the Standin' on the Corner Festival, sending people scrambling.
- March 2012: A Navajo County jury convicts Larsgard on six of eight counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony endangerment.
- April 2012: Larsgard is sentenced to 7.5 years on the charges, to be served concurrently.
- May 2013: The Arizona Court of Appeals upholds the conviction.
- December 2013: Larsgard files an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Monday: The Supreme Court declines, without comment, to hear the case, letting the lower court rulings stand.
By Colton Gavin Cronkite News Service
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a Norwegian man sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for driving through a crowd at Winslow's annual Standin' on the Corner Festival.
John Larsgard was convicted on six counts of aggravated assault and one count of felony endangerment in 2012 after he got lost while traveling through the state and ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street at the festival, terrifying pedestrians.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, which grabbed headlines that claimed Larsgard had been sentenced to years behind bars for making a wrong turn or for running over one woman's toe.
But a prosecutor said Monday those accounts downplayed the seriousness of the incident. Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon said he was not surprised the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, calling the testimony from witnesses in the case too compelling to ignore.
"There were multiple 911 calls at the time of the incident showing how dangerous his driving was," Carlyon said. "After he drove into the crowd the first time, he circled around the block and drove through it again."
But Larsgard's attorney noted that his client suffered the most physical injury in the incident, after one of the people in the crowd angrily punched Larsgard in the nose. Medication that Larsgard received for that injury could have contributed to his inability to fully help in his defense at trial, said the attorney, Criss Candelaria.
The question of Larsgard's medication and his ability to defend himself was one of the issues raised in the appeal to the Supreme Court. The court declined without comment Monday to hear the appeal.
"We had hoped that the court would listen despite the odds being slim," Candelaria said. "But the real point we wanted to make was the importance of detainees receiving quality medicine, even while in custody."
Larsgard was on his way to Chicago with his mother in September 2011 when their car broke down in Winslow. They rented another car in Flagstaff, then drove back to Winslow to get their belongings out of the first car, but ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street directly into the community festival.
Several people tried to warn Larsgard of his error, according to court records, but he ignored them. He finally began screaming at the festivalgoers and threatening them, the documents said.
"When people tried to tell him he was going the wrong way, he said 'I'll show you the wrong way, I'll kill you,'" Carlyon said.
Court documents said Larsgard sped backwards toward a table at the festival, stopping inches from where four children were standing before speeding off in another direction. Carlyon said Larsgard's car eventually came to a stop after it blew out a tire out on a curb and after driving into a field after one of the fleeing families.
Carlyon insists that Larsgard used the "4,000-pound car" as a deadly weapon and that all attempts to reason with Larsgard were met with hostility.
Larsgard was arrested and charged with one count of felony endangerment and eight counts of aggravated assault.
At his trial in March 2012, Larsgard testified that he did not realize he was going in the wrong direction and that when he did, he tried to back out slowly but "maybe pushed the accelerator too hard." He did not realize he had almost hit several people.
He testified that he did try to take off after being punched in the face. But police ignored his version of the story, he testified.
A jury convicted him in April 2012 on the endangerment charge and six of the assault counts. The conviction was upheld last May by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Candelaria did not rule out further appeals, but did not say Monday if any decisions had been made in that regard.