Public defender says Balls competent to stand trial
After further consultations with his client, Grand County Public Defender Aaron Wise on Tuesday told Seventh Judicial District Judge Don Torgerson that Benjamin Balls did not require an evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
Balls is accused of killing Moab pastor Vilsar Camey at the scene of the downtown Moab crash on Feb. 9. Camey’s son, Israel, 10, died two days later. He allegedly fled from a Highway Patrol Trooper while driving towards Moab on Highway 191 in San Juan County. The trooper has said he ended the pursuit at the highway and 400 East.
The Cameys were turning from East Center onto Main Street when Balls, 42, allegedly ran the red light and crashed into the car. Balls also struck Katherine Sawyer of Moab, who gave premature birth the night of the crash.
Balls acted strangely at his first court appearance held last month. He didn’t appear to understand the charges against him and said he made about $1,200 a month “working for God.”
“Balls understands the charges against him — and that his actions resulted in the death of two innocent individuals,” said Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan.
Chief Deputy Attorney Matt Brooks said Balls waived his preliminary hearing and will be arraigned on formal charges March 31.
Those charges include two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, for allegedly causing the deaths of the Cameys. He faces one count of aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, for the injuries he allegedly caused to Sawyer, and failure to respond to an officer’s signal to stop, fleeing, a second-degree felony.
He also has been charged with a class B misdemeanor count of reckless driving and class C misdemeanors for allegedly driving without proof of insurance and failure to obey a traffic control device.
The sentencing range for a class 2 felony is from one to 15 years. If ultimately convicted, Torgerson could conceivably sentence Balls to consecutive terms for each charge.
The pursuit of justice has not avoided the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis. The chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court recommended the State’s courts close to all but essential personnel. Inmates such as Balls appeared via video.