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When it came to raising Ariel Young, the challenge was almost always the same — containing her, corralling her. She was 5 years old and full of life, a free spirit always looking to run and play. Big smiles. Bigger energy.
Ariel was joy; personified. She was en route, all who knew her agreed, to one heck of a life.
Today she can’t walk. She can’t talk. She is fed via a gastrostomy tube that connects into her stomach. When her mother, Felicia Miller, speaks, it appears Ariel recognizes her voice, but that's about it.
Ariel’s life changed forever on Feb. 4, when Britt Reid, then a Kansas City Chief assistant coach, decided, local prosecutors allege, to get drunk and drive home from work. Just moments into the commute, he slammed into two vehicles parked on the side of I-435 near the end of an onramp. Ariel was in the backseat of one of them.
She suffered a severe brain injury, a fractured skull, brain contusions and subdural hematomas, according to court documents. It took weeks to awaken from the coma. There is no timetable on anything close to a recovery.
It could be years. It could be never.
So when Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutors charged Reid on Monday with a Class D felony of driving while intoxicated, the family felt little to no relief.
Reid quickly posted the $100,000 bond and walked free. If he’s found guilty, the penalties seem painfully light to the family — a sentence of 1-7 years of incarceration (potentially just one year at the county jail) and a $10,000 fine.
“What a bunch of B.S.,” said Tiffany Verhulst, a family member who set up a GoFundMe page for Ariel’s care. “We wish for harsher charges.”
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker sympathized and pointed at limitations with the law. According to Missouri statutes, for Reid to qualify for a Class C felony, he would have needed to cause death to a victim, injury to law enforcement or emergency personnel, or be labeled a “chronic” offender which, generally speaking, requires four or more intoxication-related traffic incidents. That would have upped the sentencing range to 3-10 years.
Baker promised that her office “will vigorously pursue” the charges it can and tried to reassure that Reid is not receiving “favorable treatment.”
The family’s attorney, Tom Porto, told local media that prosecutors charged Reid with what they could, given the restrictions of the state law.
Local attorneys who focus on DWI laws concurred. Even though multiple vehicles were hit and multiple people were injured (both Miller and her sister who was with her, Angela Saenz, also lost consciousness in the crash) Missouri law considers it just one incident and thus just one crime to charge. That isn’t the case everywhere.
“If this was [across the border] in Kansas, I bet there’d be multiple felony battery charges,” said Chris Scott, a former local prosecutor and now defense attorney for the Christopher Scott Law Offices in Kansas City.
That’s little solace to the family though. Part of their anger stems from Reid’s lengthy history of serious criminal and substance abuse, even if it may not qualify as “chronic” to the state of Missouri.
In 2007, the now 35-year-old was sentenced in Pennsylvania to up to 23 months in prison for a road-rage incident (he was paroled after five months into a treatment program). That same year he pleaded guilty to DUI and drug charges stemming from a separate incident where he crashed his vehicle into a shopping cart in a parking lot. He was in possession of more than 200 prescription pills that day.
Yet here he was, all these years later, allegedly drinking and driving and caring about no one but himself. To Ariel’s family, he’s the picture of entitlement. His father, Andy, is Kansas City’s famed head coach.
Money and connections got his prison time reduced the first time, at least that's what they believe.
Nepotism and favoritism got him on the staff of the Chiefs, since no one else with such a background and such a lack of discernible coaching qualifications would get a coveted NFL assistant job.
Now comes this, a potential short prison stay when all they see is a long, perhaps endless, road for their once vibrant little girl.
“Britt Reid’s B.S. charges are exactly why he’s going to do this again someday,” Verhulst said. “He knows he can get away with a slap on the wrist because his family has money.”
Reid told an officer the night of the accident that he had been at work. The Chiefs' offices and practice facility is less than a mile from the crash scene. He told police that night he had “two-three drinks” before driving. Since testing taken two hours after the incident revealed a .113 blood alcohol concentration (0.08 is the legal limit), it was probably far more than that.
It also suggests he was likely drinking inside the Chiefs facility as the team was preparing for the Super Bowl a few days later. The team has offered no comment on Reid’s actions at work that day or what their internal investigation (NFL facilities are loaded with surveillance) uncovered.
His Dodge Ram truck was traveling 83.9 miles per hour less than two seconds before the first impact, according to police reports, an astoundingly fast speed for an onramp. It was at 67.7 miles per hour when it bashed into a Chevy Traverse operated by Ariel’s mother, the second impact. She had come to bring fuel to a cousin whose vehicle, also hit by Reid, had run out of gas.
The impact was so great that both adults in the car were knocked unconscious and the backseat containing Ariel was folded over. A 4-year-old cousin was also in the car but not seriously injured.
They were sitting ducks to an alleged reckless drunk. Nothing will change that. Nothing will take it back. No amount of charges or prison time or even transparency from the Reids, the Chiefs or the NFL will magically make Ariel herself again. They know that all too well.
But when a once full-of-life little girl is facing a tragic and uncertain future, you can understand how posted bail and one to seven years for a guy who keeps getting chance after chance from famous, powerful people and organizations can ignite frustrations.
The law is the law. Prosecutors are enforcing what they can.
It just doesn’t always feel much like justice.
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