We’re reluctant to second-guess judges in criminal trials. But we are also very concerned that the judge’s ruling in the Kyle Karkos manslaughter trial was patently illogical and sent a frighteningly irresponsible message to young drivers.

The 19-year-old Karkos was cleared of all criminal charges Tuesday by 8th District Court Judge Mary Gay Kennedy.

Karkos was at the wheel on the night of April 5, racing another car, when he lost control and slammed into a utility pole. The impact killed his passenger and best friend, Kenny Jellison Jr., 18.

The Jellison family is upset with the verdict, and we can see why. The judge’s decision was a shock to many.

While Karkos has expressed regret in the case, a message he apparently authored on his MySpace.com page suggests he still doesn’t fully grasp the gravity of his actions.

“Kyle F—in Karkos is NOT GUILTY,” he wrote. “Hell Fu—in yeah no jail for me fu—in right and thanks for everyone that supported me.” And, no, Kyle didn’t abbreviate his profanity as we have done.

His bravado rubs us the wrong way, and certainly suggests he still doesn’t get the message that his exceedingly reckless behavior killed another human being and deprived a family of their son.

Judge Kennedy cleared Karkos of all charges after, she says, determining she could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Karkos’ actions were a “gross deviation from standard” conduct.

The facts of the case are straightforward: Karkos was racing against another car on Canal Street in Lewiston. Karkos apparently “won” the race when the driver of the other car wisely stopped at a red light.

Karkos blew through that red light, and then blew through another red light. A witness traveling in the same direction says she saw the two cars racing toward her and was so concerned she pulled off the road.

Karkos then lost control on a gentle left-hand turn in the road and wrapped his car around the utility pole.

To convict Karkos, the judge said, the Auburn teen would have to have known that “His conduct posed a serious risk of death or harm to himself or others but did not care.”

Ask yourself these questions:

Racing on a city street. Could that cause death or harm?

Running a red light? Likely to cause death or harm?

Running another red light? Death or harm?

Traveling at such a speed that a witness believes she should get her own vehicle off the road and out of the way? Death or harm?

Only an idiot would be unaware that any of these practices could easily result in death or injury.

Instead, the judge told the families that Karkos was “foolish and immature” and showed “genuinely poor judgment.”

Man, that makes it sound like he got caught skipping school.

Sorry. But Kyle Karkos didn’t make a simple driving mistake. In the seconds before the accident, he showed a complete disregard – a pattern of disregard – for the lives of others.

While the driver of the other car slowed and stopped, Karkos raced on through two red lights and into a utility pole.

Judge Kennedy did not see that as a “gross deviation from standard” conduct.

Racing? Running red lights? Speeding? If those are not gross deviations from standard conduct, then we’re all in big trouble.

The judge’s message to young people is absurd: You can drive recklessly, take another life and walk away without criminal charges of any sort.

Yes, like the young man said, “Kyle F—in Karkos is NOT GUILTY.”

Of anything.

And that’s a crime.


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