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Press Release

Wapato Man Sentenced to 57 Months in Federal Prison After Killing Four People While Drunk Driving

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Yakima, Washington – On May 31, 2022, U.S. District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. sentenced Leland James Finley, 28, of Wapato, Washington, to 57 months in federal prison for Involuntary Manslaughter and Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. Judge Mendoza also ordered Finley to serve three years on federal supervision after he is released from prison. Finley pleaded guilty to four counts of Involuntary Manslaughter and one count of Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury on November 23, 2021.

According to court documents, on May 7, 2019, at a little after 4:00 a.m., law enforcement officers responded to a crash scene at the intersection of U.S. Highway 97 and Larue Road, on the Yakama Nation Reservation. The investigation revealed that Finley failed to stop at as stop sign on Larue Road and drove in front of a semi-tractor-trailer that had been travelling on the highway, causing the collision. Four passengers in the Finley’s SUV were killed and a fifth was badly injured; multiple alcohol containers were recovered from inside the SUV and scattered around the scene. A Yakama Nation Police Department Officer interviewed Finley after advising him of his rights, and Finley acknowledged that he and his passengers had been drinking beer and driving around. Finley also admitted that he was the driver at the time of the crash. Remarkably, Finley admitted that he saw the stop sign and the semi-tractor-trailer, but said that he just wanted to beat the truck through the intersection. Lab results of Finley’s blood, which was drawn at a local hospital about five hours after the crash, showed the presence of alcohol, THC, metabolites of THC, cocaine, and metabolites of cocaine.

“Four people are dead. No legal proceeding, no admission of guilt, no sentence can bring them back or truly heal the wounds Mr. Finley has caused their loved ones. My office mourns with the victims’ families while we seek justice with our law enforcement partners. We will continue to hold accountable those who engage in criminally reckless violence in our community,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “While it is a miracle that anyone survived that crash, this tragedy was as senseless as it was avoidable. I call on every driver in Eastern Washington to learn the devastatingly obvious lesson from this case: do not drive while high or drunk.”

“This did not need to happen,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle office. “It is 2022. It is not a new concept that driving while impaired leads to devastating consequences,  including in this case the deaths of four innocent people. The only thing we can hope today is that others learn from Mr. Finley’s tragic decisions.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Yakama Nation Police Department, and the Washington State Patrol. The case was prosecuted by Michael Murphy, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Updated June 6, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 1:19-CR-02055-SMJ