Charlotte Hornets guard David Wesley was convicted of reckless driving, but acquitted Thursday of racing with teammate Bobby Phills in the moments before Phills was killed in a head-on collision six months ago.
Mecklenburg County District Judge Fritz Mercer said enough reasonable doubt existed about whether Wesley and Phills were racing their Porsches when Phills died Jan. 12 that he had to find Wesley innocent of misdemeanor spontaneous speed competition.
Wesley, 29, was given a 30-day suspended sentence for reckless driving, fined $250 plus court costs and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service within the next 60 days. Wesley's attorneys said he would be willing to make a public service announcement about safe driving.
Before Mercer announced his verdict, Wesley acknowledged under cross-examination that he and Phills both were driving fast in the moments before Phills' death.
"We weren't racing," he said. "We were driving fast. There was no destination. There was no finish line."
The accident happened after a morning Hornets practice on a road near the Charlotte Coliseum.
Wesley testified that Phills, 30, was behind him when, in his rearview mirror, he saw Phills' car swerve and collide with another vehicle.
Police said the men were racing their Porsches at speeds of more than 100 mph when Phills crashed.
Wesley denied Thursday he was traveling that fast.
"Were you going 45?" asked Wesley's attorney, Bill Diehl. Wesley shook his head no.
"Were you going 100?" Diehl said.
Wesley replied: "No."
Wesley testified that Phills left the Coliseum parking lot before Wesley and had stopped at a red light on Paul Buck Boulevard, which feeds coliseum traffic to Tyvola Road. Wesley said the light turned green before he reached the traffic light, so he turned left onto Tyvola without stopping and passed Phills, who followed him.
Wesley said he was talking on his cell phone to his fiancee when he looked in his rearview mirror.
"I ended the call when I saw Bobby had gotten into an accident," Wesley testified. "I saw him go out of control in my rearview mirror. I saw him slide left and it looked like he was going to get it under control and then he started spinning."
Wesley said he returned to the scene and called his fiance again.
"I told her that it was serious and that it didn't look good," Wesley testimony. He also called the Hornets' trainer and later received a call from Phills' wife, Kendall.
Wesley's version of the events contradicted a prosecution witness who said the two Porsches were racinon Paul Buck Boulevard.
Charles Ackerman, 19, of Rock Hill, S.C., testified that he was at the stoplight when he saw a black Porsche and a white Porsche on the boulevard.
"I saw them racing side by side," testified Ackerman, who estimated the cars' speed at 70 mph.
Hornets center Elden Campbell testified Wesley and Phills were not racing. Campbell said Phills spun his tires going out of the coliseum parking lot and Wesley's car then pulled up to him.
Campbell said he told Wesley: "You better not try that or I'll scratch your car with my keys." That left about a 10-second gap between Phills and Wesley on the feeder road, Wesley's attorneys contend.
James Hobbs of Charlotte testified the two sports cars passed him and veered left into the lanes of oncoming traffic. One Porsche crashed into an oncoming car, he said.
Hobbs stopped at the crash scene and saw Phills' body inside.
He said Wesley walked up to the car.
"He said `Bobby, Bobby.' And I told him I thought he was dead," Hobbs said. He said Wesley sat on the curb and buried his head in his arms.
The driver of the car Phills collided with was hospitalized with cuts and bruises.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed