The next phase of the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. saga has begun.
Rochester, New York’s Democrat and Chronicle is now reporting that Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo has convened a grand jury to determine whether the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will face charges for his role in an Aug. 9 sprint car accident that left the 20-year-old Ward dead.
This development comes one week after Tantillo announced that he would forward evidence from the crash investigation to a grand jury, saying that such a decision was “appropriate” following a full review of said investigation.
Shortly after Tantillo’s announcement on Sept. 16, Stewart pledged his continued cooperation in a statement.
The D&C’s Kevin Oklobzija also reports that Chuck Hebing, who competed in the Aug. 9 race at Canadaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park where Ward lost his life, has confirmed that he’s been called in to testify before the grand jury. However, Hebing declined further comment on the subject.
On Aug. 9, Ward climbed out of his car and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront Stewart following an on-track incident between the two when he struck by Stewart’s car. Ward was later pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.
Per New York state laws regarding grand juries, 12 of the 23 jurors must recommend charges before a prosecutor can go about obtaining an indictment.
A New York grand jury can either vote to bring an indictment, vote to dismiss charges, or direct the prosecutor to file information accusing the person of a crime less serious than a felony. It is unknown how long it will take to present the evidence or for witnesses to testify.
While the case has progressed, Stewart has resumed Sprint Cup competition following a three-race absence from the circuit in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.