William Simkins Jr. faces five to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 4 for leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Danny Drake

MAYS LANDING — A juror’s misconduct did not influence the decision to convict an Egg Harbor Township man of leaving the scene of a fatal crash, a judge found Wednesday.

William Simkins was tried this past September on charges he got in his car and chased down three teens on bikes Sept. 6, 2010, striking Jacob Broschard, 16, and then fleeing.

Simkins was acquitted of the homicide charge but found guilty of leaving the scene of the fatal crash, which carries five to 10 years in prison.

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Simkins was supposed to be sentenced last month, but instead his attorney, Lou Barbone, requested a new trial after learning a juror read Press of Atlantic City coverage during the trial.

Juror Peter Kearney was convicted Nov. 2 of contempt after Superior Court Judge Michael Donio found the man did illegally read two stories posted on The Press’ website

But those articles should not have prejudiced the juror and nothing was shared with his fellow jurors, Donio found after hearing testimony from Kearney and questioning the other jurors in his chambers.

One of the articles Kearney admitted to reading included information about the state’s failed attempt to get pictures of the victim’s body admitted into evidence. The argument was made without the jury present, and Barbone said that gave the juror more information than he was entitled to.

Donio said that the split verdict — one acquittal, one conviction — was “fair and impartial.” In fact, the judge said he indicated two years ago that, if the case went to trial, that would likely be the outcome.

The defense had even offered a plea deal that would have had Simkins admit to the lesser charge.

“The leaving the scene was basically a nondefensible charge,” Donio said. “It was not the issue in this case.”

Donio said that didn’t take away from Kearney’s crime. The juror was fined $1,000 for contempt of court.

“Kearney should count his blessings that he’s not sitting in jail because that’s how close he came,” Donio said.

Simkins will be sentenced Dec. 4. He has been jailed since his conviction, when bail was revoked.

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