Former congressman Wes Watkins given 60 days to work out plea agreement

Monday, September 20th 2004, 1:14 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla., (AP) -- Progress is being made in reaching a plea agreement to resolve two charges of misdemeanor negligent homicide against U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins for a fatal traffic accident, his attorney told a judge Monday.

Payne County Judge Michael Stano agreed to a request by Watkins' attorney, Allen Smallwood, that Watkins be allowed another 60 days to work out the agreement.

District Attorney Rob Hudson declined to comment on the status of plea negotiations but he expressed confidence the case would be resolved.

"I can't fathom that this case would go to trial, but that's up to whether the defense is willing to enter a plea," Hudson said.

Watkins, 65, was driving his minivan south on two-lane U.S. 177, south of Stillwater on April 19 when it hit a car waiting to make a left turn, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

This car was pushed into oncoming traffic and the couple, Brian and Ardith Cullen, were killed and two of their daughters, Megan and Lindsey, were injured.

The highway patrol determined that Watkins' inattentive driving caused the accident.

Watkins told troopers he didn't realize the car had stopped to turn and tried to swerve but did not act in time. He pleaded innocent.

Hudson has said he would not seek jail time for Watkins, who could face a maximum of one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Watkins represented Oklahoma's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1977 to 1990 and from 1997 to 2002.

He ran for governor, unsuccessfully in 1990 and 1994.