Last month, a Wisconsin man pleaded guilty in a high-profile case involving drunk driving fatalities. The case received much media attention because the crash took the lives of three college students, two of which were from Wisconsin.
A 32-year-old Iraq veteran pleaded no contest to three counts of DUI homicide and one count of OWI causing injury. The charges stemmed from an accident last October on Interstate 39/90/94 in the town of Burke.
At the time of the crash, four college students had pulled into the emergency lane near the median and were working to change a blown tire. All four were students at the University of Minnesota, and only one survived the accident.
The surviving passenger later told investigators that he saw the defendant “coming very fast” toward their car and he reacted by jumping over the median barrier. He says he tried to warn his friends but they were unable to get out of the way in time.
The defendant later told police that just prior to the crash, he had gone around a semi and therefore did not see the victims’ car in the median. A breathalyzer showed that his BAC was 0.158 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.
The defendant, a 1998 graduate of Verona high school, was being treated for a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his service in Iraq. His friends informed investigators that, like many vets with PTSD, the man often used alcohol to cope with his symptoms.
The one student who survived later recorded a message that appears to show sympathy toward the driver. He said: “It’s just been a very hard year . . . living life after that is very traumatic, not only for me but also for the gentleman who caused the accident.”
Hopefully, his no-contest plea, his cooperation with authorities and his PTSD will be considered at his sentencing next month. He faces a $310,000 fine and up to 78 years in prison.
Source: Chron.com, “Plea in Wis. crash that killed 3 Minn. Students,” Aug. 19, 2011