Utah deputy in deadly collision with BYU student agrees to plea, could avoid jail
Jun 26, 2023, 5:11 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 4:23 pm
(Provo Police Department)
PROVO, Utah — A deputy who was first charged with felony manslaughter, pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge after he hit and killed 22-year-old BYU student Joseph Spenser in 2021.
He can avoid punishment in the fatal collision as the court will hold his plea in abeyance — meaning it will not sentence him for 18 months as he agrees to the court’s conditions.
Joseph Richardson agreed to a negligent homicide plea and in turn the state will not request any fine or jail time with the charge if he doesn’t violate any laws for those 18 months, notifies the court of his current address, appears for all hearings and pays any court costs as ordered, according to court documents.
Richardson, off duty on March 17, 2021, was responding to a SWAT call, traveling 57.8 mph in a 35 mph zone in his Toyota Tacoma on 900 East in Provo without any lights or sirens on his vehicle. Spencer pulled out of a Taco Bell and Richardson’s Tacoma struck his car on the driver’s side door, killing him. Richardson applied his breaks before the collision.
The Summit County Attorney’s Office filed one charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. That charge was reduced to a Class-A misdemeanor negligent homicide that could still carry up to 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine if Richardson fails to meet the terms of his plea. After 18 months, if Richardson doesn’t violate the order, the court will enter its judgement, where it will reduce the charge to a Class-B misdemeanor or reckless driving with a guilty plea and no penalty.
Before Richardson was identified, he was placed on administrative leave.
Judge Robert C. Lunnen of the Fourth District Court of Provo, presided over the case.
The call for SWAT response was for a standoff that lasted six hours with a man court records shows has a history of mental illness.