After a day-long jury trial, motorcyclist pleads guilty

A much-anticipated case of eluding police was settled in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Tuesday night (May 24) after a day-long jury trial marked by grisly descriptions and pictures of injuries suffered in an accident resulting from a high-speed chase from Culpeper County to the town of Washington last summer.

While the jury was still deliberating, 26-year-old Rajesh Pramod Patil of Haymarket entered a plea agreement which, for him, meant pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to obey a law enforcement signal (amended from a felony charge of eluding or disregarding a police officer), general reckless driving and reckless driving at speeds over 80 mph.

Patil’s sentence, which reportedly includes some 16 months of jail time, was unclear at press time. The agreement was reached while the jury was deliberating; the jury did not start that process until after 6 p.m., and was still meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The details of the incident last Aug. 11 were not in dispute. That day, Patil led police on a high-speed chase from Culpeper County into Rappahannock. With passenger Rachel C. Kieler, 21, seated behind him on his motorcycle, Patil took off at a high rate of speed from the traffic light at Clevenger’s Corner, heading west on U.S. 211. Virginia State Police Trooper S.J. Riddle attempted to pull them over, but the motorcycle sped away. Riddle chased them into Rappahannock — where Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jason Romero also joined the pursuit—until Patil turned off the four-lane highway and headed down Old Mill Road near the Rappahannock Library, toward Warren Avenue.

On the curve just before Old Mill reaches Warren, Patil lost control. Both Patil and Kieler were seriously injured when they were thrown from the bike at the end of the 15-mile, high-speed chase. The bike and Patil wound up in a ditch alongside Warren; Kieler was thrown about 20 feet and landed on a grassy embankment on the other side of Warren. Both were flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital.

What was contested during the trial was whether Patil was aware that he was being chased by law enforcement officers. By pleading guilty to the lesser charge, Patil admits some awareness.

Robert Surovell, attorney for passenger Kieler’s family, said Wednesday that the family was “relieved that Patil pled guilty to all three charges.” He also said, speaking as a resident of populous Fairfax County, where he has practiced law for several decades, “it was a pleasure to observe [in Rappahannock County] a basic part of our justice system where people know each other and crimes are personal.”

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