BENNINGTON — A Bennington woman has pleaded not guilty to allegations she fled the scene of a crash after her SUV collided with a pick-up truck along Route 7 in February. Meanwhile, the woman is scheduled to plead guilty in an older case, where she was arrested after leading police on a chase in the Northshire.
The defendant, Nina Keus, 40, is facing a felony punishable by up to four years in prison in her most recent case: subsequent grossly negligent vehicle operation. She is charged also with the misdemeanors leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in property damage and violating conditions of release.
Authorities say the charges stem from an incident in the late afternoon of Feb. 14, when Keus crashed into a northbound Chevrolet Silverado while she was heading south on Route 7 in Bennington. Her Buick Rendezvous was reportedly found lying on its side in the roadway.
Bennington police said a New York detective, who was driving in the area at that time, saw Keus get out of her SUV and flag down a pick-up truck. The detective said Keus had tried to get on the back seat of his truck but “he advised she needed to stay at the scene,” according to the Bennington police’s affidavit of probable cause.
It said the detective had smelled “the strong odor of intoxicants coming from her.” The detective reportedly followed the truck carrying Keus until it reached Route 346 in Pownal.
Police said the truck Keus crashed into was carrying two men. The driver, Jesse Hartman, said he saw Keus’ SUV cross into his lane so he moved over and his truck started to scrape the guardrails before it got hit, according to the affidavit.
Police said Hartman believed he lost consciousness because when he opened his eyes, his truck was stationary and his airbag had deployed.
During the crash, police said Keus had been on court-ordered conditions of release not to drive any motor vehicle.
The conditions were imposed after Keus was charged in May 2020 with multiple felonies following a police chase from Manchester to the Shaftsbury area. Court records show she is due back in court on Thursday, where she is expected to plead guilty in this case.
Police accuse Keus of taking a Kia Amanti, which had been parked at the local Econolodge, without its owner’s permission. As police were taking the car owner’s statement, the car was reportedly spotted driving past.
Manchester police — later joined by state troopers and Bennington police officers — pursued the car as it headed south. The car had been swerving and reached speeds of up to 115 miles per hour, according to court records.
Investigators said she appeared to be under the influence of an illegal substance.
Keus faces up to five years in prison on her most serious charges in this incident: negligent operation while eluding law enforcement officers, aggravated vehicle operation without owner’s consent and driving under the influence (third offense).
She remains free from jail on conditions, the latest of which were imposed at her March 15 arraignment on the new charges.
She was originally scheduled to enter a plea on March 8 but didn’t show up, according to court records. After the Bennington Superior Court issued a warrant for her arrest, Keus’ boyfriend reportedly called to say she was on crutches and needed a wheelchair to move around.