JJ Lehto at Petit Le Mans, 2004. Image: Wikipedia user Tomh009Enlarge Photo
Finnish driver JJ Lehto’s career spans an incredibly diverse array of motorsports, ranging from Formula One through the American Le Mans Series. In between, Lehto even spent a year in the United States, driving for Hogan Racing during the 1998 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) season.
Lehto even helped teams win the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, in 1995 (behind the wheel of a McLaren F1 GTR) and in 2005 (driving an Audi R8). On the night of June 17, 2010, however, Lehto’s life was forever altered following a fatal boating accident on a canal near Raaspori, Finland.
The accident killed Lehto’s friend and injured Lehto, and Finnish prosecutors proceeded to build a case that Lehto was drunk behind the wheel of the speedboat on that June night. Lehto maintained his innocence, but in December of 2011 a Finnish court sentenced him to 28 months in prison for the accident.
Lehto appealed the verdict, but his appeal was delayed when his attorney was arrested on charges of money laundering last February.
Now, nearly one year after sentencing, Autosport reports that Lehto has been cleared of all charges stemming from the crash as a result of a successful appeal.
Under Finnish law, operating a boat under the influence or allowing another to operate a boat while intoxicated are both crimes. If there was uncertainty over which crime Lehto was guilty of, Finnish law should have prevented him from being charged for either one.
With the incident now in his past, it’s unclear if Lehto will resume his role as an F1 commentator on Finnish television, or if he will pursue a return to racing.
Image credit: Wikipedia user Tomh009, CC3.0