No jail time for driver who fatally struck Smithfield motorcyclist

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A Suffolk driver who fatally struck a Smithfield motorcyclist last summer won’t serve jail time as a result of pleading guilty to a lesser offense.

According to court records, 20-year-old Justin Fatherly pleaded guilty on May 4 to improper driving in connection with the Aug. 7, 2022, crash that killed 57-year-old Richard Wayne Hillis of Smithfield.

Fatherly was initially charged with reckless driving after Virginia State Police determined he’d made an unsafe lane change on Nike Park Road that resulted in his striking Hillis head on. Hillis was thrown from his bike and died of his injuries two days later at VCU Medical Center in Richmond.

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Fatherly had faced up to a year in jail on the Class 1 misdemeanor reckless driving charge. He was instead fined $500 plus court costs of $79 for the improper driving charge, which state law lists as a traffic infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

According to Isle of Wight County Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips, the plea agreement was made after consultation with the victim’s family and based on evidence submitted by Fatherly’s attorney, Monte Kuligowski, that his client had experienced an unspecified medical condition at the time of the crash.