The man accused of killing two Moab residents after running a downtown Moab red light on Feb. 9 and crashing into a vehicle has pleaded not guilty to the seven counts he faces — including two counts of manslaughter.
Benjamin Thomas Balls is accused of causing the deaths of Vilsar Camey, 45, and Camey’s 10-year-old son, Israel.
Balls, 42, calmly said “not guilty” seven times Tuesday, April 21, in response to questions from 7th Judicial District Judge Don Torgerson. Balls appeared via video due to the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone else participated electronically.
Balls was allegedly fleeing from a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who unsuccessfully attempted to pull him over as he drove south on Highway 191 toward Moab. There were reports Balls was attempting to run motorists off the road.
The trooper broke off the chase at the south Maverik on Highway 191 and 400 East, writing in his report that Balls was driving roughly 100 mph and accelerating.
After striking the Camey’s SUV, the pickup Balls was driving then crashed into a vehicle driven by Katherine Sawyer, who was taken to Mercy Hospital in Grand Junction, where she gave birth to a premature baby who sustained injuries in the crash. Relatives of the Cameys and Sawyer have hired attorneys to pursue a judgment against Balls in civil court.
Balls pleaded not guilty to two manslaughter charges regarding the Cameys, one count of aggravated assault regarding Sawyer, 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 COVID-19 pandemic and resultant social distancing guidelines forced Torgerson to set a trial date for Aug. 3. Attorneys agreed it would take five days to try Balls, because the number of witnesses “is pretty involved,” said prosecutor Matt Brooks. A pretrial hearing was set for June 2.