Oskaloosa A Jefferson County judge on Friday denied a request for probation made by a Kansas City, Kan., man who was involved in an alcohol-related wreck last March that killed a Lawrence man.
The attorney representing Robert G. Cernech, 38, asked that his client be placed on probation and allowed to complete an out-patient treatment program in lieu of going to prison.
During a court hearing last month, District Judge Gary Nafziger sentenced Cernech to 32 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and 90 days in the Jefferson County Jail for driving under the influence of alcohol. The sentences were to be served consecutively.
The charges stemmed from a March 29 accident on U.S. Highway 24 that killed David B. Johnson, 31, son of former Douglas County Sheriff Rex Johnson. The Kansas Highway Patrol accident report indicates that at the time of the accident, Cernech had a blood-alcohol content of 0.23 percent, nearly three times the state's legal limit of .08 percent.
Jefferson County Attorney Dan Owen said the judge could have granted Cernech probation only if he found that an appropriate treatment program was available, that Cernech could get into the program without delay and that placing Cernech in such a program would promote the public's safety by enhancing his rehabilitation.
Owen said he argued that the public's safety would not be promoted by granting probation to Cernech, who had been given a diversion for an earlier DWI citation.
Eight members of Johnson's family attended the hearing but did not speak in court.
"When a life is taken in this way, by a person who has repeatedly refused to quit drinking and driving, prison is the only appropriate punishment," Owen said.
Nafziger denied the probation request but did order that Cernech could serve the two sentences concurrently.