A Morehead, Ky. man found guilty by a jury last month of vehicular homicide, a first-degree misdemeanor, appeared Monday for sentencing in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas.
Eric. D. Maher, 34, was sentenced to 10 days in the Fayette County Jail, a five year driver’s license suspension, and one year of community control.
Maher’s attorney, Jeffrey McCormick, told the court that Maher is employed and has a child.
“We would ask that the court consider probation or some type of punishment that would not require jail time,” McCormick said.
Maher was indicted in April for vehicular homicide after a 2004 Peterbilt tractor-trailer he was driving overturned on a curve near the Village of Staunton Sept. 24, 2015. Dale E. Patton, of Washington C.H., was traveling in a Jeep in the opposite lane . The 68-year-old hit a guardrail and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Many members of Patton’s family were present in the courtroom during sentencing Monday. Maher turned around and addressed them: “I wish I could change it…I’m sorry.”
The family read victim impact statements.
Trevor Patton, Dale Patton’s oldest grandson, spoke first. He said when he used to hear someone say, “I think about them everyday,” he wasn’t sure if that was possible. But, said Trevor, “There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of my grandpa.”
Trevor said he’s struggled with how he felt about Maher’s punishment because he has a kid.
“I don’t think you should be allowed to be a truck driver anymore,” said Trevor, who said he didn’t care about the fine or jail time imposed. “No CDL, no license…is what I would like to see. You have a son, and his son needs his income. But…I would feel very unsafe with that still being an opportunity (for Maher to drive).”
Penny Patton spoke on behalf of the family and said, “Our family would not like to see any time in jail but asked for a lifetime suspension of CDL.”
Both Trevor and Penny reiterated testimony given during the trial from Donald Rack, the Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper commercial vehicle inspector, who responded to the crash.
“The truck, if it had been properly inspected, would not have been on the road that day,” said Penny.
Trooper Rack found during the inspection of the crash site that the tractor-trailer Maher was operating had violations that made it unsafe to drive, including cracks in the brake lines, rear tire tread less than 1/32 inch, holes in the brake chambers, loose brake lines with missing rivets, brakes with broken lines, a tire with cuts and chunks out of it on the outside, a break in the exhaust, and low securement of the load that was being transported on the semi-trailer.
The tractor-trailer was hauling thousands of pounds of cardboard boxes that were flattened and baled together with wire. The bales were strapped onto the semi-trailer. Several loose and damaged straps were found at the scene of the accident.
“I think the driver needs to be held accountable and lose his CDL,” said Penny, “for not having the load secured and the truck inspected.”
Penny described her father, Dale, as “a friend to everyone.”
Dale had retired five years ago.
“My dad died at the highest point of his life,” Penny said.
She said the family was choosing to honor Dale and make him proud.
“He would want me to forgive you, he would want you to live your life, and he wouldn’t want you to be taken away from your family and those who love you,” said Penny. “Live life like my dad: be happy, be a friend, tell them that you love them often, let them know you’re here…don’t be afraid to say I love you, give hugs, joke and laugh.”
The jury deliberated for an hour-and-a-half Sept. 29 before coming back into the courtroom to announce Maher acted with a lapse of due care and was guilty of vehicular homicide.
Steven Beathard, Fayette County Court of Common Pleas Judge, suspended 170 days of the 180-day jail sentence, ordered Maher to pay restitution in the amount of $500 to the estate of Dale Patton, and ordered Maher to pay the costs of prosecution. Maher will arrange his 10-day jail sentence with his employer and the Fayette County Adult Probation Office.