Rashad Owens

Travis County district court judge Cliff Brown said Friday he wants to try the murder and aggravated assault cases against Rashad Owens by November.

 

Owens, the suspect in the deadly car crash that killed four South by Southwest attendees, has been charged with capital murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Owens made a brief appearance in court Friday, but did not speak on his own behalf.

 

Owens’ defense attorney, Rickey Jones, did not immediately return a request for comment.

 

To ensure the case meets the projected November deadline, Brown said he would like both Jones and the prosecutor for Owens to appear in court every 45 days leading up to the trial.

 

A specific date has not been set for the trial, but Brown set Owens’ next hearing for Feb. 23.

 

Court Coordinator Jeanette Deleon said a meeting between Jones and the prosecutor will likely take place to discuss case information before the hearing.


 

The preliminary hearing for Rashad Owens, who drove through a barrier and killed four people at the South By Southwest festival last March, was rescheduled for Nov. 3, according to Judge Clifford Brown of the 147th Travis County Criminal District Court. 

Owens and his attorney failed to appear at the scheduled hearing at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on Monday, so the date was rescheduled. This is the fifth time court dates for Owens have been pushed back since he was arrested in March. 

Owens was charged with capital murder after driving while drunk through a barrier on Red River Street during the South By Southwest festival in March, killing four people and injuring 20 others. 

Owens was originally scheduled to appear in court April 9 before his trial, but a number of no-shows and requests by his attorney, Rickey Jones, have pushed the pretrial hearing back to 9 a.m. on Nov. 3.

The charges against Owens include capital murder, four counts of felony murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault. Bond was set at $5.5 million.

Several court cases related to the University and the Austin area have progressed over the summer. Below is an update on the status of three major cases:

Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander

The preliminary hearing for former Texas football players Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, both of whom were charged with second-degree felonies for sexual assault, has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 2, according to Travis County court records. The date was rescheduled from Aug. 7 in order to ensure that both players had legal representation.

Sanders and Meander were arrested July 24 after allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in a campus dorm on June 21. According to UTPD Chief David Carter, both players were released later that day on bond because they did not pose a danger to other students. 

Immediately following the arrests, Texas head coach Charlie Strong suspended both players from the team for an indefinite amount of time. He then announced on Aug. 3 that they had been dismissed from the team because of the charges brought against them. 

Bail was set at $75,000 for both Meander and Sanders for one count of sexual assault each. Sanders has an additional bail of $20,000 for a charge of improper photography. If convicted, both players could face a sentence of up to 20 years and an additional fine of up to $10,000.

President William Powers Jr. said in a statement that the University has undertaken a Student Judicial Services review, which could result in the players’ expulsion from the University. 

Rashad Owens

Court dates for Rashad Owens have been pushed back four times since he was arrested in March. 

Owens was charged with capital murder after driving while drunk through a barrier on Red River Street during the South By Southwest festival last March, killing four people and injuring 20 others. 

Owens was originally scheduled to appear in court April 9, before his trial, but a number of no-shows and requests by his attorney have pushed the pretrial hearing back to 9 a.m. on Oct. 6. According to Janice Porter, Travis County court clerk, it could possibly be another year before Owens goes to trial. 

The charges against Owens include capital murder, four counts of felony murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault. Bond was set at $5.5 million.

Rahatul Khan

After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy for attempting to provide terrorists with material support, UT student Rahatul Khan could face up to 15 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. At the plea hearing on July 2, Khan admitted to providing a recommendation to a co-conspirator about someone who wanted to engage in terrorist activities in Somalia. 

Khan was arrested by federal prosecutors in Round Rock on June 17, the same day as another conspirator, Michael Wolfe, was arrested in Houston and eventually given the same charge. Wolfe said he planned to travel to Syria and fight with a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida.

On June 20, Khan was officially indicted by a federal grand jury with the charge of conspiracy and waived his formal arraignment, or formal reading of criminal charges. He was scheduled to appear at a detention hearing to determine whether he could have been released on bond before his trial on June 30 but waived the right to that hearing also. 

On June 27, Wolfe pled guilty, and Khan pled guilty on July 2. Both are still in federal custody, pending sentencing before District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin. No sentencing date has been scheduled.

A status hearing for Rashad Owens, the driver charged in the crash during South By Southwest that killed four people and left more than 20 injured, was reset to June 3.

Police filed the initial charge of capital murder after Jamie West, 27, and Steven Craenmehr, 35, died at the scene. Deandre Tatum, 18, and Sandy Le, 26, died in the two weeks following the crash.

Owens is facing one count of capital murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Police say Owens was driving while intoxicated when he fled police and drove a stolen car through a crowd of people on Red River Street on March 13.

Three UT students, Greg Cerna, computer science and electrical engineering sophomore, Maria Belyaeva, computer science and radio-television-film sophomore and computer science sophomore Ryan Freeman, were victims of the crash. 

District Court clerk Kay Bennett said Owens’ hearing was rescheduled because his case has not yet been indicted.

Owens has remained in Travis County Jail since his arrest with a bond set at $5.5 million, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office records.

On March 27, Austin City Council approved a resolution to launch a full-scale review of South By Southwest activities as they relate to city safety and capacity. Councilman Mike Martinez, who drafted the proposal, said the crash prompted the motion.

Austin police have filed 20 charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against 21-year old Rashad Charjuan Owens, who is accused of driving his car into a crowd at South by Southwest, an incident which resulted in four deaths.

Though Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the police would charge Owens with aggravated assault immediately following the March 13 crash, those charges were not filed until Tuesday. Owens was charged with capital murder, defined in Texas as the death of two or more people, hours after the crash.

Each of the 20 aggravated assault charges carry a bond of of $100,000, in addition to Owens’ $3 million bond charge for capital murder.

Owens will appear in court on April 9.

 

A fourth person has died as a result of the SXSW crash, according to the Austin Police Department. 

DeAndre Tatum, 18, died from injuries caused when suspected drunk driver Rashad Owens, 21, sped through a crowd of people on Red River Street during SXSW.

Tatum died Thursday morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge.

More than 20 others were injured in the SXSW crash, which had already resulted in three fatalities. 35-year-old Steven Craenmehr and 27-year-old Jamie West were pronounced dead at the scene, while a third victim, Sandy Le, died five days later.

"The news of DeAndre Tatum's passing is very sad to us @Austin_Police. Our thoughts & prayers go out to family & friends may God comfort all," Chief Art Acevedo said in a tweet. 

Owens, who remains in Travis County Jail, has been charged with one count of capital murder with bail set at $3 million.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Just after midnight Thursday, Rashad Owens drove a car through the South By Southwest crowd on Red River Street and hit 23 people in less than a minute, according to police. Three of those victims — Greg Cerna, Maria Belyaeva and Ryan Freeman — are UT sophomores. Here, Cerna, Belyaeva and sophomore Oliver Croomes, who was with them the at the scene, recount their memories of the collision.  

Greg Cerna

Nineteen-year-old Greg Cerna, computer science and electrical engineering sophomore, remembers getting pizza with his friends just before midnight Wednesday night. He remembers agreeing to walk to the Mohawk Bar to see Tyler, the Creator, despite not really being a fan. After that, he said, things get a little blurry.

“I remember getting to Red River Street but, after that, just loud noises,” Cerna said. “The next thing I remember really clearly is waking up in the hospital and seeing my aunt’s face.”

Cerna suffered a concussion and received scrapes and bruises all along the right side of his body after being hit. His head gash is now marked by nine metal staples. Cerna’s friend Croomes, who was at the scene but did not get hit, said he believes Cerna was carried up the block by the hood of the car.

“We had to walk toward people at the next intersection — that’s when I first saw [Cerna],” Croomes said. “I thought maybe he was dead.”

Cerna, who spoke slowly on Sunday, searching for words he has trouble remembering, said he is still in disbelief when he thinks about the reality of the collision.

“I never thought it was the kind of thing that could happen,” Cerna said. “And, like, to me.”

Maria Belyaeva

Maria Belyaeva’s body is covered with yellowing bruises and tiny cuts just starting to scab over. She has a sprained ankle, concealed bruises on her skull and several staples on the back of her head holding together a larger cut. 

Belyaeva, computer science and radio-television-film sophomore, said she was one of the first people hit by the car.

“It hit us from behind,” Belyaeva said. “I was told he accelerated afterwards, which is scary. I remember waking up, and somebody was holding my hand, and someone else was holding my neck. It was dark, and they told me that I had been hit by a car, but I kind of thought they were kidding because I didn’t feel anything. I mean, my head hurt a little bit, but that was pretty much it.”

Belyaeva said she feels Owens, who is accused of driving the car, should see strict repercussions for his actions.

“I think he deserves a really harsh punishment,” Belyaeva said. “I know he was drunk, but that’s never really an excuse to be like ‘Oh, maybe I should go through this barricaded street through all of these people.’ He should accept the consequences of his actions, whatever they may be.”

Oliver Croomes

Computer science sophomore Oliver Croomes has no idea where the blood-stained Mohawk Bar t-shirt on his blue living room table came from. Someone handed it to him after the crash, but Croomes said no one was shirtless, and he was in shock. 

Croomes, who was walking along Red River Street with Cerna, Belyaeva and Freeman at the time of the crash, did not actually get hit by the gray Honda. Instead, he watched his three friends bear the brunt of the collision. Initially, he could not find them in the chaos.

“I remember thinking, I hope no one’s dead,” Croomes said. “I saw [Maria] first — I didn’t see her moving, so that freaked me out, but at least I knew she was there. I found [Freeman] on the opposite side of the street, but then — where the fuck was [Cerna]?”

Croomes said he was surprised by how quickly the collision was over.

“When you imagine situations like that, you feel like you’ll have some sort of time to escape, or help yourself,” Croomes said. “It just happens way, way too quickly.”

Cromes said, since the crash, he has a new awareness of mortality.

“I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately, [and now] I guess I kind of have a phobia of cars,” Croomes said. “But I’m OK.”