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No felony charges for man who killed Texas deputy

By Brian Rogers
The Houston Chronicle

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A Harris County grand jury on Thursday decided not to bring a felony indictment against a man accused of killing a Harris County constable's deputy while talking on his cell phone and driving.

However, they decided James Michael Legg should be charged with a class B misdemeanor in the death of Precinct 5 Deputy Constable Jason Norling.

Investigators said Legg was distracted by his cell phone when he hit the 38-year-old motorcycle officer about 10:30 a.m. Oct. 1 on the Westpark Tollway near Gessner. Norling was off his motorcycle, conducting a routine traffic stop.

Prosecutor Warren Diepraam said he sought to indict Legg for a felony but grand jurors returned an indictment for failure to change lanes for an emergency vehicle, a 2003 law that forces drivers to change lanes or slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit as they pass.

Norling's widow said Thursday she was surprised that Legg wasn't indicted on felony charges.

"So it's a slap on the wrist?" Lisa Norling said.

She also said she doesn't hate the man who killed her husband, just what he did.

"I don't wish him any harm," Lisa Norling said. "He has to feel remorse. It has to be terrible to know that you killed a man."

Diepraam also said other members of Norling's family were disappointed.

"They understand that it's a horrible accident," Diepraam said. "But they thought he needed to be held responsible for a criminal felony."

Legg's attorney, Kent Schaffer, said Legg was "somewhat relieved," but still remorseful.

"He has always accepted responsibility for this," Schaffer said.

He said he and Legg would next meet with prosecutors to try to come to an agreement about whether a plea bargain could be reached. The misdemeanor is punishable by six months in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted.

Legg was not taken into custody and will post bond as soon as bail is announced in the case, Schaffer said.

He said Legg testified before the grand jury for about an hour before jurors made their decision.

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

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