An emotional Chandler Kania and his defense team surprised a sparse crowd at the Orange County Courthouse Monday morning by entering a guilty plea.
After meeting with his team behind closed doors for almost two hours, Kania pleaded guilty to three counts of felony death by vehicle, one count each of driving while under the influence, driving with an open container, driving after consumption alcohol under the age of 21, purchasing alcohol under the age of 21, consuming alcohol under the age of 21 and driving the wrong way on a two-lane highway.
Kania pleaded not guilty to three counts of second degree murder and one count of reckless driving.
Authorities say Kania was driving drunk on the wrong side of I-85 in July 2015 when his car crashed into another car with four passengers. Three were killed and the fourth was injured.
The state’s attorney, Orange County Assistant Defense Attorney Jeff Nieman, said he would contend some of the counts, citing aggravated circumstances.
Judge Henry W. Hight Jr. informed Kania and his team that with all his guilty pleas added up, the maximum sentence he could face would be 59 years and 6 months in prison.
However, Hight said because Kania lacks a criminal record, his sentence could be shorter.
Kania is currently free on $1 million bail and is being held on house arrest.
After the guilty pleas, the defense filed a motion to limit certain crime scene photographs from appearing during the trial.
Hight said most of the photos were of the victims.
One of the defense’s attorneys, Russell Babb, argued the photos would create an emotional response that would skew the jury against their client.
Hight ruled that three out of the nearly 50 photos could be discarded, but he did say that if these photos were needed based on future witness testimony, they may reappear later in the trial.
Nieman said jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
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