Jury acquits Talent man in fatal 2017 motorcycle crash
A Talent man who admitted to flipping off and swerving at a motorcyclist in the minutes leading up to a fatal crash on Interstate 5 has been acquitted of manslaughter.
Raleigh Hugh Rodrigues, 68, was found not guilty Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court of two manslaughter charges in the 2017 death of 25-year-old Kevin Mayo.
Bitter tears were audible from a half-dozen loved ones of Kevin Mayo outside the courtroom, including his wheelchair-bound sister, who was paralyzed in 2018 while driving home from Southern Oregon to support her father getting a tattoo of Kevin’s portrait.
Mayo’s mother, Debbie, said her family couldn’t understand how the jury came to its conclusion.
“We saw the evidence, we saw the video,” she said. “We’re just terribly heartbroken.”
Deputy District Attorney Nick Geil, one of the prosecutors in the case, said that although he disagreed with the jury’s verdict, he acknowledged jurors “took their time with it.”
The jury weighed three days of evidence and deliberated for three hours before reaching the verdict about 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.
Rodrigues Thursday took the stand in his defense about his interaction with Mayo the evening of Dec. 14, 2017, between the Phoenix and south Medford exits on I-5. Rodrigues was driving a Chevrolet Silverado pickup and Mayo was driving a Yamaha sport bike.
Rodrigues testified that Mayo was passing him “at a pretty fast speed” and flipped Mayo off in a brief waving motion that Rodrigues testified was “mostly for me.”
After the gesture, however, Mayo slowed “way down” in the left lane to Rodrigues’ speed in the right lane.
Rodrigues at one point was captured on a FedEx semitrailer’s dash cam video veering a couple feet into Mayo’s lane.
Defense lawyer Jeni Feinberg asked Rodrigues why he swerved, and Rodrigues said he didn’t have an answer, but admitted it was a “dumb thing.”
“I thought a lot about that, and I really don’t know,” Rodrigues said. “I don’t have any good explanation for that one.”
“There wasn’t anything dangerous about what I did, in my opinion,” Rodrigues later added.
Rodrigues said he remembered losing control of his pickup, and later seeing Mayo "straddling a post, and he was hurt real bad."
Jackson County Medical Examiner Dr. Jim Olson testified Wednesday that Mayo died of “multiple blunt injuries.”
“I don’t see any way he could’ve survived this injury,” Olson testified.
Toxicology tests detected no alcohol in Mayo’s blood, and trace amounts — “less than therapeutic levels“ — of marijuana metabolites and benzodiazepines, a class of sedative drugs typically prescribed for anxiety.
"It’s just barely detectable, so I don’t think it had any effect on him at all,“ Olson testified.