A Tennessee truck driver who killed two people in a 2016 crash on Route 17 in the town of Washington two years ago will serve 25 years in prison.
Randall Weddle, 55, of Tennessee was sentenced Friday following a weeklong trial in January, at which a Knox County Jury convicted Weddle on 15 counts, including two counts of manslaughter and three counts of aggravated driving under the influence.
Justice William Stokes on Friday issued a total sentence of 30 years in prison with all but 25 years suspended. The sentence will be followed by four years of probation.
Weddle was carrying a load of lumber on March 18, 2016, when he crashed into oncoming traffic, striking two cars and sending one into a field where it burst into flames.
Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head died in the crash.
Blood tests taken following the incident show that Weddle was intoxicated at the time of the crash. He also told investigators that he was sick and on prescription medication. In the days leading up to the crash, Weddle also manipulated his driving logs to make it appear he was driving fewer hours than he actually was.
According to the state’s sentencing memo, Weddle has 48 prior convictions of motor vehicle crimes, including 12 operating under the influence convictions in four different states. At the time of the crash, Weddle’s license was suspended in Louisiana and revoked in Virginia — where he was living with his wife.
“I am completely stunned with Mr. Weddle’s record,” Stokes said.
Despite the suspensions, he was able to obtain a Tennessee license, which has an address of “a buddy’s house he stayed at when he was having marital problems,” according to the memo.
Stokes said he was “genuinely mystified” that Weddle was able to obtain a license in Tennessee.
Given that Weddle was driving a “massive projectile object” while impaired, Stokes said that it “is in the court’s view that this is one of the most serious ways you can commit manslaughter.”
“It’s a wonder, frankly, that four people weren’t killed that day,” he said.
The state asked for a total sentence of 50 years in prison with all but 40 years suspended and four years probation. The defense asked for a sentence of 20 years with all but nine years suspended with a four year probation period.
While the sentence tilts toward the “historically high” spectrum of sentences for manslaughter, Stokes said that Weddle’s “staggering” driving and criminal record, along with the fact that he was driving a fully loaded tractor trailer while impaired, were aggravating factors in his sentencing decisions.
A manslaughter conviction carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence. Prior to trial, the prosecution offered a plea deal with a sentence of 30 years with all but 20 suspended, but the defense rejected the deal.
The courtroom was filled Friday with family and friends of the victims, who detailed how their lives have been affected by the crash.
Torres-York was due to graduate in May from a program that would certify her as a substance abuse counselor. Last year, her daughter gave birth to what would be her first grandchild.
Fowles, a Navy veteran, helped nurse his wife through cancer. Stokes called him “the epitome of a good man.”
“There are so many victims. There is so much hurt, it ripples everywhere,” Stokes said. “The enormity of it simply cannot be grasped.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. : I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.
Two members of the NYPD — one in a high-ranking post and the other a just a rookie — were busted early Sunday morning for separate incidents of drinking and driving, police said.
NYPD Sgt. William Shaleesh, 48, crashed his 2016 Hyundai into a parked car on East 34th Street near Avenue U in Brooklyn just after 12:30 a.m. Cops responded to a 911 call at the location to find the sergeant allegedly drunk, police said.
Shaleesh has more than 25 years on the force, most recently with the department’s Special Operations Division. He was suspended without pay and charged with driving while intoxicated.
It was not immediately clear if Shaleesh, a Brooklyn resident, was alone in the car at the time.
Less than two hours later, NYPD Cadet Olano Gayle, 21, was driving his 2006 Audi in the wrong direction on Grand Concourse near East 156th Street in the Bronx just before 2:30 a.m. when he rear-ended an ambulance.
But instead of pulling over following the crash, the cadet fled the scene in his car — still traveling the wrong way on Grand Concourse, police said.
Gayle, whose friends were with him at the time, was stopped by cops near East 159th Street and arrested.
DENVER – People talk about pot in Colorado every day. Whether they’re buying it, using it, or getting a whiff of it while cruising down the road.
But a cannabis conversation inside a Denver recreation center Wednesday was a bit different.
The subject – driving high. It’s a big problem in our state and the reason why the Colorado Department of Transportation recently launched their multi-year safety campaign “The Cannabis Conversation.”
They want to talk with the public about the dangers of driving high, and why some think it’s okay to get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana.
“For me, I feel like sometimes using cannabis doesn’t make me impaired, it actually makes me focused,” Alex Rubin, a regular cannabis consumer, said.
Rubin said he attended CDOT’s open house meeting at the Montclair Recreation Center “to just be a little more informed.” He told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann he uses cannabis every day and knows his limits.
As for if he’s ever used and then gotten behind the wheel…
“I know if I feel more stoney or more cloudy, I know that I probably should be doing anything cognitive,” Rubin explained. “But that doesn’t’ mean I should never use and then get under the wheel.”
But that is exactly what some marijuana companies, health groups and especially Colorado State Patrol – all who had Q & A booths at the meeting – say drivers shouldn’t do.
“It is not okay to drive a motor vehicle if you’re utilizing marijuana,” CSP Sgt. Rob Madden said to the small group who attended the meeting.
“They’re saying that any form of cannabis consumption is not okay, and if you’re using cannabis, you should never drive or do anything,” he said. “I think that is a little bit skewed in some ways for people who use cannabis every day.”
Rubin added that cannabis affects everyone differently, especially in the various ways it can be consumed. He said he is happy CDOT has launched a conversation around marijuana, but he thinks the focus should be on defining impairment.
“Where is that bar? Where is that line? I think an educational campaign from people or dispensaries that are selling the products is an important way to do it,” he said.
CDOT is continuing ‘The Cannabis Conversation’ in Fort Collins on Tuesday, March 27.
For more details and to take an online survey to weigh in on the issue, visit: https://www.codot.gov/safety/alcohol-and-impaired-driving/druggeddriving.
Malcolm X :
Because it would get across that road by any means necessary.
A county council candidate was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after she drove into a ditch on Jersey Road on March 20, according to the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office.
Julie D. Brewington, 51, of Salisbury, told a responding deputy that she drove off the road when she received a phone call, the sheriff’s office said.
Brewington is a Republican candidate for an at-large seat on the Wicomico County Council in the upcoming Primary Election.
The single-vehicle crash took place just before 8:30 p.m. on Jersey Road near Adkins Road in Salisbury. An investigation showed that after leaving the roadway, the operator appeared to drive approximately 75 yards in the ditch parallel to the road, according to the sheriff’s office.
The deputy met with Brewington, the operator of the vehicle, and detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage, the sheriff’s office said. Brewington was slurring her words, appeared confused and was uncooperative, according to the sheriff’s office.
Brewington refused to sign paperwork related to the DUI arrest, the sheriff’s office said. The deputy transported Brewington to the Central Booking Unit where she was processed and taken in front of the District Court Commissioner. Following an initial appearance, the commissioner released Brewington on personal recognizance.
In addition to the DUI charge, she also was charged with using a handheld telephone while her vehicle was in motion, failure to control speed to avoid a collision, negligent driving and driving while impaired by alcohol.
GOSHEN – Minutes after an Orange County jury convicted Gregory Cardona of criminally negligent homicide and reckless driving in the crash death of girlfriend Ashley Martinez, months of tensions and resentment between the two families exploded into shouts and name-calling.
The fracas started Wednesday morning just after deputies led Cardona out of court to the inmate holding area, when Assistant District Attorney Matthew Healy stepped toward the rail to speak to Martinez’s family, who filled one side of the gallery.
From the crowd across the courtroom, Cardona’s stepfather muttered an insult at Healy, which set off a woman in Martinez’s family.
“We lost Ashley!” she shouted, adding an insult. “She’s dead! She’s dead!” the woman wailed.
Several court officers stationed in the courtroom for the verdict quickly stepped between the families, keeping them separated despite attempts by a few people to get at the other side.
An Orange County Court jury found Cardona, 28, guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, and reckless driving, a misdemeanor, in the Aug. 30, 2016 crash that killed 25-year-old Martinez. The jury acquitted Cardona on the top count, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, and a misdemeanor count of driving while ability impaired by drugs, a decision that seemed to stun both families.
The verdict suggests that jurors did not find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Cardona was impaired by marijuana. Healy and Senior Assistant District Attorney Lorri Goldberg argued at trial that Cardona was high and driving recklessly at the time of the crash.
Cardona, 28, of New Windsor, faces up to two to four years in prison on the criminally negligent homicide charge. That time could run consecutively to the aggregate four to 12 years in prison Cardona is serving for violating probation on previous grand larceny and forgery charges.
The courtroom was silent as Judge Robert Freehill took the verdict, as the jury was polled and as the jury exited.
Goldberg asked the judge to order Cardona held without bail, and to return him to prison to await sentencing.
Cardona’s lawyer, Jaime Santana, asked that Cardona be kept at Orange County Jail.
“Mr. Cardona is remanded, and he will be returning to state prison,” Freehill ruled, and deputies led Cardona out of the courtroom.
Freehill called a recess, and no one in the gallery stood.
After a few moments of silence, the fracas began.
As the court officers worked to hold back and calm people, the woman continued screaming in grief and anger, tears falling. Shouting continued from a couple of people on each side. At one point, as the court security held back family members, Cardona’s stepfather stepped on a bench to reach over an officer. The officers, and it appeared other relatives, quickly got him down.
A few minutes later, court officers ushered Martinez’s family out of the courtroom.
Cardona’s family remained in the courtroom until court officers got the clear sign that Martinez’s family had left the premises, a procedure court security staff has used since the start of the case because of the simmering tensions.
Cardona will be sentenced June 5.