District attorney: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim not expected to face legal ramifications after fatal accident

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Onondaga County (New York) district attorney told Yahoo Sports on Thursday morning that there will not be any immediate legal ramifications after Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s role in a tragic and fatal car accident on Wednesday night.

“Not from law enforcement, unless something extraordinary or bizarre comes to our attention that we’re not aware of,” said district attorney William J. Fitzpatrick in a telephone interview. “In terms of a strict reconstruction of the accident, it’s just a tragedy.”

Fitzpatrick said that Boeheim struck a pedestrian who’d exited a vehicle on I-690 East at 11:22 p.m. on Wednesday night. Police identified the victim as 51-year-old Jorge Jimenez. Fitzpatrick said that there was a single-car accident that resulted in the car hitting the guardrail. All four occupants exited the car, and police said the accident occurred as Boeheim was attempting to avoid hitting the car. (The cause of the initial single-car accident wasn’t known.)

Fitzpatrick said that Boeheim stopped and immediately attempted to render assistance. He called Boeheim “completely cooperative” with police and noted that he took a breathalyzer that came up with no trace of alcohol.

“All indications are that it was an appropriate speed for the conditions,” Fitzpatrick said.

Boeheim released a statement on Thursday morning: “I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as a result of last night’s accident. Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”

Police say Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a 51-year-old man walking outside his vehicle on a highway near Syracuse, N.Y., on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP file photo)
Police say Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a 51-year-old man walking outside his vehicle on a highway near Syracuse, N.Y., on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP file photo)

Syracuse police officials and Fitzpatrick held a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon to offer more detail on the fatal accident. Syracuse police chief Kenton Buckner reiterated Fitzpatrick’s earlier sentiment that he doesn’t anticipate any criminal charges for anyone involved in the accident. There’s still an ongoing investigation, including trying to determine variables like Boeheim’s speed.

“Based upon what we know today,” Buckner said, “we have a tragic accident that resulted in a gentleman’s death that happens to involve a high-profile individual.”

The police offered more detail about the crash, including that Boeheim was driving over a hill and had to react quickly to seeing a black Dodge Charger perpendicular to the guard rail. Boeheim attempted to avoid the car, which was stretched across parts of two highway lanes. The four people in the car, including Jimenez, were attempting to cross the highway to seek safety on the median. Along with Jimenez’s death, one other person in the car was injured.

Police complimented Boeheim’s actions after the accident, including calling 911 and using his cell phone flashlight to flag down cars while Jimenez was being attended to. “Mr. Boeheim did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Buckner said.

Fitzpatrick outlined the next steps expected to take place, including determining the cause of the original accident, status of the driver and an autopsy.

“We’ll take final statements and do an accident reconstruction and find out where as best we can the deceased was standing,” he said. “Whether or not there are any skid marks. It’ll be difficult to determine because of the condition of the road.”

While it’s very early in the process, the most likely legal outcome would be a civil lawsuit for monetary damages.

“In terms of if he’ll be sued, I can’t answer that,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whenever anyone asks me, ‘Can I sue?’ I say, ‘Stop, I don’t need to hear the rest of it.’ The answer is yes.”

There will also be a psychological impact on Boeheim for his role in the tragedy.

“Different people handle it different ways,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve seen it a lot in 40 years. He’s a good guy, and I’m sure it’s going to affect him.”

Boeheim, 74, has been the head coach at Syracuse for 43 years, won the 2003 national championship and led the program to five Final Fours. He’s essentially lived in or around the city since enrolling at Syracuse University in 1962 and has become the community’s most recognizable figure.

Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack released a statement on Thursday morning: “We extend our deepest condolences to all impacted by this tragic accident. Coach Boeheim is in contact with local authorities and cooperating fully. Out of respect for the grieving, there will be no further comment at this time.”

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