It’s been over a month since Britt Reid, a former outside linebackers coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and son of head coach Andy Reid, pulled onto southbound I-435 from Stadium Drive, near Arrowhead Stadium. Ahead, two cars were pulled off to the side of the road, one having run out of gas, the other there to help. According to the police report, Britt Reid sideswiped one of the cars before rear-ending the other. That second car, the one Reid hit hardest, was carrying five-year old Ariel Young and another child. Both were hospitalized.
Six weeks later, Ariel Young is awake after spending two weeks in a coma, as a result of the injuries sustained in the crash. But according to her lawyer, Tom Porto, she remains unable to talk or walk, and has likely sustained brain damage that will affect her for the rest of her life. (Porto did not respond to requests for comment.)
Reid, 35, reportedly told officers that he’d had two or three drinks that night, in addition to taking his prescription for Adderall that day. A simple Google search is informative about the dangers of taking the two together, not to mention that Adderall itself carries a warning that it may cause dizziness, cautioning users to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until they know how it will affect them. Regardless, police who arrived at the scene said they could smell alcohol on Reid and that he had bloodshot eyes.
Reid was transported to the hospital following the crash, where he has reportedly had surgery in the days following his arrest. To date, he has not been charged with any crime.
Here’s where I inject myself into the conversation to talk about my experiences as a Public Defender. Had Britt Reid been my client (meaning, a regular person and not the son of a future Hall-of-Fame coach) in the suburbs outside Chicago, he would not only have been charged within the first 24 hours, he probably would have been handcuffed to his hospital bed while he recovered. I even reached out to my former colleague, Jeff York, now the Public Defender for DuPage County, to ask if I was assessing the case correctly. He assured me I was.
In most states, there is more than one way to charge a DUI offense. There’s the “per se” charge, where the person submits to a breathalyzer or a blood test and reveals a blood alcohol content over the state limit, which is usually .08, like in Missouri. But there’s another way to charge DUI as well, which is how police arrest people when they refuse to submit to field tests; a general DUI charge based on the officer’s observations.
So let’s say a guy is weaving between lanes and gets pulled over. He can refuse to get out of his car. He can refuse field sobriety tests. He can refuse a breathalyzer. The officer can still arrest him based on an observation of “he was driving erratically, and when pulled over, had glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol.” And they write it almost exactly like that every time. In most places, that’s enough for a judge or jury to convict someone of a DUI. If the guy admits he was drinking on top of all that? It’s over. Especially as many counties and municipalities have discovered that DUIs are huge income boons for their economies.
No judge or juror wants to let a guy off and have him then go out and kill someone, making DUIs pretty easy convictions. I’ve never seen a prosecutor’s office wait more than a day or two to charge a driver who admitted to drinking and caused an accident with property damage, much less with serious injuries. And neither have most of the lawyers I talked to since Reid’s accident.
But if you ask DUI attorneys in Jackson County, Missouri (and I did), where the accident took place, they’ll tell you the lab results on Reid’s bloodwork aren’t back yet, and that it’s not unusual for the state lab to take six weeks or longer to return results.
Indeed, when Deadspin reached out to the Kansas City Police Department, we were told that the case file on Reid’s accident had been turned over to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. When we contacted the Prosecutor’s Office, we were told they had not received the case file, and were unable to comment on the case at all. And though he refused to confirm whether or not the office was waiting on Reid’s blood test results, Director of Communications Michael Mansur did tell me that, in some cases, intoxicated drivers are charged right away, “such as if a person is so impaired that there’s no doubt.” When asked why that wasn’t the case with Britt Reid, who hit a parked car and admitted to drinking, Mansur responded, “I don’t know, I haven’t read the case file.” Mansur also told me it’s not unusual for it to take three to five months to bring charges in a case like Reid’s.
Criminal defense attorney Jay Norton of Kansas City told me as much. “I see the same thing going on with regular people all the time,” he said. “It’s par for the course for this area — I don’t think there’s any funny business.”
Norton also pointed out that it’s not just Reid’s bloodwork the police are likely waiting for. There’s also a formal crash scene investigation, a possible reenactment of the crash, examination of tire marks on the asphalt or gravel, and a whole host of other investigative techniques police will run through, especially in a high-profile case like this one. Norton’s point is taken, but I couldn’t help feeling that a typical Public Defender client would be sitting in a jail cell while waiting for all this to happen. When it comes to “regular” people, the charges often come first, the investigation and evidence gathering later.
I reached out to Travis Jones, a consultant and instructor in the field of DUIs, who is often called as an expert witness in DUI cases. A former police officer himself, Jones told me he thought the fact that Reid was still a free man came down to good old-fashioned politics. “You have a case where there is a direct threat to the public … and there was obviously impairment involved. The only reason they won’t issue (an arrest warrant) is for the simple fact that they’re afraid of some political comeback on them.”
Having been to Kansas City on a Chiefs game day, I’ll admit, I’ve never seen anything like it — a place where the entire town is decked out in red and gold at the same time. I mean everyone: hotel staff, cab drivers, the wait staff at every restaurant. And, of course, Kansas City loves Andy Reid. But this isn’t the first time Andy Reid’s kids have been in trouble with the law. In fact, it’s not even Britt Reid’s first DUI.
Back in 2008, while Andy Reid was coaching the Eagles in Philadelphia, Britt Reid pleaded guilty and spent time in jail for another DUI and a separate road rage incident, in which he reportedly flashed a gun at another motorist in 2007. While he was out on bond for that case, Britt Reid was arrested for DUI after he drove into a shopping cart in a Pennsylvania parking lot, as well as possession of approximately 200 prescription pills. He wound up with a sentence of 8-23 months in prison, for which he served five months total. That same year, his brother Garrett was sentenced for a DUI that injured another motorist, in addition to charges that he smuggled 90 pills into prison the week he was sentenced. (Garrett died of a heroin overdose in 2012 at Eagles training camp.)
Britt Reid was cited again in Pennsylvania for speeding and careless driving in 2011. That sounds like a guy you don’t want driving around your community for the very obvious reason that he was always going to hurt someone. And finally did. Given his history, it’s a miracle Britt Reid still had a license. Many people spend years trying to get their driving privileges back after even a single DUI.
Despite the confusion regarding the whereabouts of Reid’s case, let’s give the Jackson County Prosecutor the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this is a big-time case and the prosecutors know the whole world is watching. Maybe they’re waiting until the blood work comes back to make sure they have all their ducks in a row. But even that defense doesn’t really excuse the delay.
“It can take six months sometimes to get the lab results back,” Jones told me, “but a lot of times the police will put a priority on the lab results. They’ll ask, ‘Can we get a priority rush and get this taken care of?’ It just kind of depends on the problem, whether they’re really interested in getting the case issued or not. They can always issue the case without having the lab results back, too. I hate to say it, but it depends on who the client is or it depends on who they’re arresting. There is no fairness in this system.”
Jones also mentions that, even without the DUI charge (it’s actually DWI in Missouri), there could be ample evidence already to charge Reid with assault in the second degree,” which requires only that one recklessly causes serious physical injury to another or while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, operates a motor vehicle with criminal negligence and causes physical injury to another. Jones continued, “And there’s also another charge out there: DWI (driving while intoxicated) involving a serious injury. Based upon Britt Reid’s history, there should be jail and there should be a high bond and everything to assure he’ll be there.”
But for now, Britt Reid is not in jail. He has not been arrested. There is no bond. If he were almost anyone else, this would likely not be the case. And that’s not just my opinion, that’s the opinion of attorneys working on DUI cases around the country right now.
Meanwhile, five-year old Ariel Young lies in a hospital bed. Not walking. Not speaking.
She may never do either again.