A 19-year-old West Plains man was convicted Wednesday of causing, and fleeing from, an accident that totaled a woman’s car minutes after he beat up a pedestrian whom he nearly ran over.
Vasiliy A. Ustimenko faces 12 to 14 months in prison when Superior Court Judge Robert Austin sentences him Oct. 28 for second-degree assault, reckless driving, failing to remain at the scene of an accident and drunken driving.
Ustimenko pleaded guilty to the failure-to-remain charge, and Austin convicted him of the other counts after a two-day nonjury trial.
The defendant was one of a half-dozen young men who punched and kicked pedestrian Jon Middleton shortly before 9 p.m. on July 28 last year, but Ustimenko refused to identify any of his friends. Austin concluded that Ustimenko started the attack, but didn’t strike the blow that broke Middleton’s jaw in two places.
That blow came after Ustimenko and two of his companions had gone to attack a man and a woman who demanded they stop assaulting Middleton, Austin found. Nevertheless, the judge said, Ustimenko had done enough to be guilty of second-degree assault.
Witnesses estimated Ustimenko was driving as fast as 50 mph when he nearly ran over Middleton at the corner of Cliff Drive and Sumner, where Middleton was crossing the street with his dog. Witnesses, including Middleton, said Ustimenko skidded to a stop, got out and exchanged words with Middleton and began chest-bumping, head-butting and punching Middleton.
A passenger in Ustimenko’s car and four men in a second car joined the assault.
A police officer who later helped arrest Ustimenko at his home at 16414 W. Four Mounds Road said Ustimenko told her, “I punched him in the head because he wouldn’t shut up.”
Dr. Reed Lockwood, a retired surgeon who lives in the area, and passing motorist Lydrya Peterson were punched when they tried to help Middleton. Lockwood said Ustimenko deliberately swerved his car at him when he and his friends fled.
Minutes later, other witnesses said, Ustimenko’s gold Toyota Corolla drove over the landscaping at the Intermodal Transportation Center before running a red light at Main and Division. Ustimenko plowed into Robyn Twitty’s car.
Twitty and her 3-month-old son suffered cuts and bruises and the car they were driving, owned by Twitty’s mother, was destroyed.
Ustimenko had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the threshold for intoxication, four hours later.
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