Solicitor drops reckless homicide charge for key witness in East Side murder trial
A week after his testimony led to a murder conviction for an East Side drug dealer, prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a charge the witness had faced in a crash that killed a 76-year-old woman in North Charleston.
Raymond Renard Clement, 32, of Aiken Street in Charleston, was arrested Sept. 3 on a count of reckless homicide after his SUV fatally struck Margarete Althausen outside Northwoods Mall.
Althausen was walking across Northwoods Boulevard when the vehicle hit the Goose Creek woman at 24 mph. The speed limit in the area is 20 mph.
Clement blamed the crash on faulty brakes, a North Charleston police report stated at the time.
Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, the prosecutor on the case, said in a statement Tuesday that Clement's actions didn't constitute a crime. Clement stopped, called 911 and waited with Althausen until help arrived, Kidd said.
Clement wasn't on his cellphone or under the influence at the time and hadn't otherwise shown an "indifference to human life" by traveling 4 mph over the speed limit, Kidd said.
Althausen was a native of Brooklyn who enjoyed fishing, coin collecting, bowling and the Cleveland Indians, her obituary stated.
"It is a true tragedy, and the wounds the family feels right now will likely take many years to heal," Kidd said. "However, the pain for their loss does not turn a tragic traffic accident into a criminal offense."
Kidd indicated last week when he testified in the murder trial of 26-year-old Tyrel Rashone Collins that he would likely drop the charge against Clement.
Clement, who has a history of drug and weapons convictions, was the state's only eyewitness to the October 2011 shooting that killed notorious East Side felon Solomon Lamont Chisolm, 24.
Two other men scheduled to testify against Collins backed out when they were called to the stand, and instead accepted 90-day jail sentences for disobeying a subpoena.
Clement testified despite a shooting that peppered his mother's downtown home on Jan. 5, the night before Collins' trial began.
One of Collins' brothers, 25-year-old Adrian Collins, was arrested in that incident on a charge of intimidating a witness.
Adrian Collins remains jailed as he serves a 30-day sentence for contempt of court after he profusely cursed during his bail hearing last week, Magistrate Linda Lombard said Tuesday.
Kidd testified that the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office had not offered to drop the reckless homicide charge in exchange for his testimony.
But without it, Tyrel Collins likely would have been acquitted of the slaying, according to the judge presiding over the trial.
With it, a jury still needed 10 hours to decide Collins' fate and convict him Thursday.
Police said Collins shot Chisolm five times as he played cards with Clement, his half brother, at Mall Playground on Columbus Street.
Collins and Chisolm were said to be feuding drug dealers. Chisolm was suspected in a shooting four days earlier that wounded Collins and killed one other man.
After Collins was sentenced to life in prison, Clement was praised for testifying despite the danger of breaking an East Side street code against talking with authorities.
As for his own legal troubles, Clement's actions in the crash may have been negligent but not criminal, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Tuesday.
"Civil liability and criminal responsibility are very different concepts," she said. "The negligent act surrounding this horrible accident does not give rise to a prosecution for reckless homicide."
If Clement had been prosecuted and convicted of the charge, he would have faced up to a $5,000 fine and 10 years in prison.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.