McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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January 15, 2013

Plea bargain reached before trial begins

McALESTER — Potential jurors filled the lobby Tuesday morning at the Pittsburg County District Courthouse. They never had a chance to serve as jurors since the defendant in the case reached a plea bargaining agreement with the District 18 District Attorney’s Office prior to the start of the trial.

Michael Dwayne Helem, 53, pleaded guilty to using a vehicle to run over a pedestrian. Helem was charged in May with felony counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. He was also charged with misdemeanor counts of driving with a canceled, suspended or revoked license and failure to keep right.

Helem pleaded guilty to the charges Tuesday morning. He was fined $1,000 and received a 10-year suspended sentence. Helem will also be expected to pay the victim’s medical bills, according to District 18 Assistant District Attorney Wesley Cherry.

According to court records, Helem was driving a 1999 white Ford van in May near the intersection of East Chickasaw Avenue and South 13th Street. While driving, Helem struck pedestrian Nathan Devon Simmons with his van, court records state.

When police arrived on the scene, they found Simmons “on the ground bleeding,” a police affidavit states.

Simmons was transported to the McAlester Regional Health Center by the McAlester Fire Department emergency medical services.

Although Helem was not at the scene of the accident when police arrived, he called 911 from his home to report that someone jumped out in front of his vehicle while he had been driving, according to court records. Helem said someone threw a rock at his vehicle and he was afraid of the person, so he drove home, according to the affidavit.

Helem’s attorney, Jeff Contreras, said that he does not comment on cases. Helem also said he did not want to comment. However, when entering his guilty plea, Helem thanked the district attorney, the judge and his attorney. Just before leaving the courtroom, Helem walked over to a woman who was waiting for him and hugged her tightly. While the pair were hugging, Helem had tears in his eyes and his lawyer patted him on the back.

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.

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