Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo has announced that he will submit evidence from the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. case to a grand jury “in the near future.”
Here’s the full statement from Tantillo that came out this afternoon:
“Over the past several weeks, I have reviewed with members of the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department their investigation, as it progressed, in the Tony Stewart matter. Recently, that office concluded its work and forwarded the complete case file to me.
Upon my review of all of the information contained in the entire investigation, I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to a grand jury, for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter. Accordingly, the evidence developed in the investigation will be presented to an Ontario County grand jury in the near future.
As grand jury proceedings in New York State are strictly confidential by law, I am unable to state when the matter will be scheduled, other than to state that I intend to present the matter in the near future. Similarly, because of the confidential nature of these proceedings, I cannot state who will be called as witnesses, or what any witness’s expected testimony will be.
When the presentation has been completed and a determination has been made, I will advise the public and the media at that time of the results.”
This comes after the county’s Sheriff’s office had announced on Thursday that the investigation was complete and submitted to the D.A.’s office for review.
In a conversation over the weekend with MST colleague Jerry Bonkowski, Chicago defense attorney Steven Borkan said that a decision to forward evidence from the case to a grand jury does not necessarily mean that Stewart will face an indictment.
“In this particular instance, the district attorney wants to make sure that the proverbial I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed,” Borkan said to Bonkowski.
“Therefore, you take it to the grand jury, you present the evidence to the grand jury and then the grand jury then makes a determination of whether or not an indictment should be handed down.”
Ward was struck and killed by Stewart’s car during a sprint car event on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.
After being involved in an on-track incident with Stewart, Ward got out of the car and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the three-time NASCAR champion when the accident occurred.
Stewart did not compete for three Sprint Cup races (Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol) as he took time to grieve and reflect. He returned to action last month at Atlanta, but was ultimately unable to make the Chase.
Shortly following the release of Tantillo’s statement today, Stewart issued his own statement:
“I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office in investigating this tragic accident. I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation.”
Also issuing a statement this afternoon was NASCAR, through its chief communications officer, Brett Jewkes:
“We are aware of the completed investigation and the announced next steps. First, our thoughts continue to be with all who have been impacted by this tragedy. We will monitor this process and stay in close contact with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment on this case so we will continue to respect the process and authorities involved.”