The UC Berkeley graduate student driving David Halberstam the day the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist died in a three-car collision has been charged with a misdemeanor, signaling another sad chapter in the ordeal.
San Mateo County District Attorney James Fox charged 26-year-old Kevin Jones with vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence for the April 23 accident at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road in Menlo Park.
Jones was driving the Vietnam War-era journalist to Mountain View for an interview with Y.A. Tittle, a well-known former 49ers and New York Giants star, when the accident occurred.
Halberstam lived in New York and was in the Bay Area for a lecture at UC Berkeley two days before the crash.
Jones, driving a Toyota Camry, allegedly made a left-hand turn onto Willow against a red light arrow when a late-model Infiniti broadsided the Camry. All drivers suffered injuries, but Halberstam, who was 73, was the only death.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Jones was distracted by having the famous author — his “idol” — in the car with him and was paying too much attention to their discussion and not enough to the road.
“It was one of those things where Mr. Jones was star-struck,” Wagstaffe said.
Jones faces at most a year in county jail and up to a $1,000 fine, Wagstaffe said. The misdemeanor complaint will be filed next week in San Mateo County Superior Court. Jones is set to be arraigned July 11.
Jones’ attorney Laurel Headley said she had not seen all of the evidence in the case yet and therefore would not comment on it. Jones was distraught by the whole incident, she said.
“He’s just devastated. He’s been devastated,” Headley said.
The author and journalist was known for his book, “The Best and the Brightest,” among others, detailing the origins of the Vietnam War, which he covered for The New York Times.
He ultimately won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage, but he also wrote extensively about sports, including “Summer of ’49,” a story of that year’s pennant race between American League East rivals the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.