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Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Drunken driver who killed Lawrence woman on bicycle sentenced to 6 months in jail

Family says words cannot describe loss

Joel Hernandez, 22, wipes away tears as he apologizes to the Leek family for his role in the death of their 20-year-old daughter, Rachel Leek, on Oct. 16 as she was riding her bicycle. Hernandez was driving drunk, hit Leek, then fled the scene. He received a sentence of six months in jail followed by one year of probation. Beside him is his attorney, Al Lopes, at the sentencing hearing Thursday in Douglas County District Court.

Joel Hernandez, 22, wipes away tears as he apologizes to the Leek family for his role in the death of their 20-year-old daughter, Rachel Leek, on Oct. 16 as she was riding her bicycle. Hernandez was driving drunk, hit Leek, then fled the scene. He received a sentence of six months in jail followed by one year of probation. Beside him is his attorney, Al Lopes, at the sentencing hearing Thursday in Douglas County District Court.

May 20, 2010

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Driver sentenced to jail time

The driver responsible for the death of a woman on her bicycle was given the maximum sentence available for his crimes Thursday. The sentence includes six months in jail, a fine, community service and a year of probation. Enlarge video

Two parents embraced outside a Douglas County courtroom Thursday afternoon: one, a mother whose son was just sentenced to jail.

The other, a father who will never see his daughter again.

Their conversation was private, but the moment even caused court employees to get choked up.

Minutes earlier, a Douglas County District Court judge had sentenced 22-year-old Joel Hernandez to six months in jail for drinking and driving and killing a 20-year-old Lawrence woman in October. The six-month sentence is the maximum allowed by law for a first-time misdemeanor DWI offense.

Hernandez made a tearful apology to the family of Rachel Leek during the sentencing hearing Thursday.

“I’m really sorry for what happened to Miss Leek,” Hernandez said. “I go through what happened every day. It should have never happened, but I can’t change that.”

Hernandez struck and killed Leek as she was riding her bicycle near 10th and Tennessee streets on Oct. 16. He then left the scene.

Hernandez, a former Haskell Indian Nations University student and a Lawrence High graduate, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, after reaching a deal with prosecutors in April.

Hernandez will be on probation for one year after his release from jail.

Judge Michael Malone also ordered Hernandez to complete 200 hours of community service and to pay a $500 fine.

Malone said he hoped the jail time would serve as a deterrent to Hernandez and anyone else considering getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“You’re going to live with her death for the rest of your life,” Malone told Hernandez.

Leek’s father, sister and other relatives were in the courtroom, but did not address the judge.

Assistant District Attorney James McCabria said Leek’s father summed up the family’s feelings in a one-sentence statement he wrote on a form sent out by the court.

“We cannot express the loss of our daughter in words,” James Leek wrote.

Hernandez’s attorney, Al Lopes, said his client felt awful about leaving the scene. It’s unknown whether the outcome would have been different had Leek received medical help sooner.

“It’s eating at him,” Lopes said. “He’s more remorseful that he left the scene of an accident and let her die on the streets of Lawrence, Kansas.”

Lopes said from this point forward, Hernandez will be living a life for two people.

“He’s living his life, and a life for Rachel,” Lopes said. “He has an obligation to sit down and talk about how a bad thing can happen to a good person.”

Comments

TheBigW 4 years, 2 months ago

(quote) Malone said he hoped the jail time would serve as a deterrent to Hernandez and anyone else considering getting behind the wheel after drinking. (quote)

6 months and 500 bucks a deterrent, likely not. People who get busted for pot serve more time then this guy.

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geekyhost 4 years, 2 months ago

No doubt. That's not a deterrent at all.

I doubt much could have been a deterrent for the accident itself. Drunk driving isn't something people do when they think through consequences, and she was riding around on a bike in the dark without reflector lights.

However, driving away from the scene was something that was done with some forethought. He knew he hit something, and I don't care if he thought he hit a tree branch. You stop and see what happened. You call the @#$#@$ ambulance. She was alive when he left the scene. He could have had the decency to at least do that much. And the passengers in the car should have been charged, too. Forgive me if I missed that part, but I don't see them mentioned at all.

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ebyrdstarr 4 years, 2 months ago

What would you suggest charging the passengers with? The statute against leaving the scene of an accident does not apply to passengers unless the driver is incapacitated. I'm not sure what other criminal statutes could apply.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

LPD tried talking some BS to me, after a kid smashed up my van on 13th and Tennessee 2 weeks ago, that my 2-year-old daughter getting picked up by her mom to go get checked out and calmed down and away from the dirty skanky student ghetto where the accident occured counts as leaving the scene of an accident. It's a dangerous corner anyway and he wanted me to have Olivia to sit outside the car or wait in the car (for someone else to hit us, no doubt).

I gave him a swift snuff and said "Sorry, I guess I didn't think a 2 year old can get ticketed for leaving the scene." and he didn't say anything else.

P.S. Living outside of town is great until a student who doesn't give a crap what he just did takes your car. These last 2 weeks have suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked

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asbury 4 years, 2 months ago

I think that persons who are truly intoxicated, and not just "buzzed", do not make decisions....at all. To drive, to not drive, to stop if he think he hit something, to keep on going. Someone that inebriated is not making decisions. Period. After sobering up though, he should have gone to authorities voluntarily....and I am not familiar enough with the case to know if he did or not. I do know that penalties for further DUI's are much more stringent and costly. Some felons are sent to prison, but I think Dg Co Judges like for DUI convicts to serve Jail Time, because it is so much more restrcitive and psychologically harmful to inmates. This person should have been charged with vehicular manslaghter in my opinion....But hey, what do I know?.

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nut_case 4 years, 2 months ago

"6 months and 500 bucks a deterrent" - ha... There are a few people I might consider taking out if I knew that is all the punishment would be. Having a beer while doing it, would be even better. Now where is my key chain with the bottle opener.....

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

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sourpuss 4 years, 2 months ago

Exactly. The DA brings the charges. The judge has no say in that process, he only hears the case. If you don't like what happened, kick the DA out. He probably brought misdemeanor charges because they would stick and because he could get a guilty plea for them. A murder charge would have gone to trial and perhaps the evidence wasn't there to get him for felony DUI.

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sllyunsan 4 years, 2 months ago

BS, the judge could have refused the plea.

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Deja Coffin 4 years, 2 months ago

Yeah and that kid sure showed a lot of remorse on his facebook page. What a joke.

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parrothead8 4 years, 2 months ago

Six months for taking a human life? While no sentence could have soothed the pain the Leek family feels over the loss of their daughter, six months must seem like a cruel joke to them.

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Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 2 months ago

"The six-month sentence is the maximum allowed by law for a first-time misdemeanor DWI offense."

According the to the law, they threw the book at him! I think it's more screwed up that 6 months is the max for KILLING someone.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes, how is this a misdemeanor??

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monkey_c 4 years, 2 months ago

So if 6 mo. is max for misdemeanor DWI, what about vehicular manslaughter?

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jayhawkgrandma 4 years, 2 months ago

What about the other people in the car when the girl was hit?

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 2 months ago

It would have been more informative if the precise charges/counts were included in the article.

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Deja Coffin 4 years, 2 months ago

This isn't the first time someone has gotten a light sentence for a hit in run that resulted in a death in Lawrence. Why aren't they getting more time? I'm sure this kid is sorry but it's a human life. Not an animal, damaged building, or another vehicle.... these are living breathing people whose families are left with unimaginable heartbreak and loss all because someone wasn't paying attention.... or didn't care to make sure the other person was alright. You cannot put a price on a human life but 6 months is a slap in the face of those who love the victim. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

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Richard Payton 4 years, 2 months ago

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Kathy Getto 4 years, 2 months ago

This is all very sad. I hope the comments on this one are being watched closely.

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Keith 4 years, 2 months ago

“I’m really sorry for what happened to Miss Leek,” Hernandez said.

He's still not taking responsibility. What happened? A man would have said "what I did to Miss Leek."

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

He wrote a 3-page letter to the family in which he took full responsibility.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

and apparently meant it a lot when he spoke those words.... ?

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

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DAHAWKMAN 4 years, 2 months ago

that really is some bullSh#$% I got a DUI and didnt even kill anyone and was sentenced to 15 months in the county jail! with a $3600 fine. Now thats a deterrent! Wish i had that messed up judge! Drinking and driving is a seriuos offense and that judgement was as week as it gets. I think thats what a 3rd DUI OFFENDER recieves if I'm not mistaken.

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TheYetiSpeaks 4 years, 2 months ago

"I got a DUI and didnt even kill anyone and was sentenced to 15 months in the county jail! with a $3600 fine."

Yeah...You should get a medal.

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asbury 4 years, 2 months ago

Susequent DUI's whether anyone else is involved or not have SEVERE penalties....as you know. When I was a kid, the sheriff of whatever county my stepfather was driving in used to call us...just to pick him up and take him home. Time and time again. The man was never charged, prosequeted, or sent to jail....Just sent home to sleep it off and do it another day. Which he did....until he died...at home...alone. The laws have changed, and the penalties (wirthout the loopholes--like this one)are very severe. Especially compared with violent, planned crimes invovloving persons.....but there are always loopholes.....There is no real justice in Dg Co Ks...The thin blue line exists, and covers attys, prosecutors, and of course, judges.

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Ace_Ventura 4 years, 2 months ago

Wow, this dude is lucky. I hope he gets what he really deserves in jail. I can see if it wasnt his fault. But clearly it was. He will have it coming to him. Good luck....

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harleyrydyr 4 years, 2 months ago

I am sitting here thinking about seeing Rachel and my daughter leaving the house to go trick or treating, her little sleepy face on the weekend after the girls tried to stay up for the whole night and maybe made it until 2 am. I have so many emotions going thru me right now I dont know whether to be mad or just enjoy the time that Rachel made me smile and hope her family can now find some comfort in her death, I for one am lucky for the time that I did know her. Rich McCoy

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orhs1963 4 years, 2 months ago

If Joel Hernandez would have texting & driving and killed a Douglas County Deputy Sheriff he would not be in jail for six months. Kansas has different standards for "killing a person" while operating a motor vehicle.

Yep, 6 months or 6 years and a million dollar fine will not make any difference to Rachel Leek and her family. But somewhere there needs to be justice when a person life is taken due to a total inappropriate driver.

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HogJiver 4 years, 2 months ago

THIS IS WRONG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Judge should get 10 years for this sentence.

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

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sllyunsan 4 years, 2 months ago

YOU need to get YOUR facts straight. The Judge CAN refuse a plea!

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mr_right_wing 4 years, 2 months ago

Wow...she's dead and he loses probably less than half a year of his life.

At least we know what the guy looks like, so we can openly spit on him when they probably let him out after 3 months.

I'll say this again; the worst thing about drunk driving is 99% of the time the wrong person ends up dead.

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smbrady 4 years, 2 months ago

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Jeremiah Jefferson 4 years, 2 months ago

Man, they threw the book at him didn't they.... $500 doesn't even begin to cover the funeral expenses let alone the punitive damages the family should be paid for loss of their loved one due to some beligerant idiot. Also where did that judge get his degree, the Dollar Store? You got to be a complete moron to let someone walk on a deal like that. 6 months is a slap on the wrist. Justice has not been served!

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

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kernal 4 years, 2 months ago

Used to be drunk drivers did not get jail time. In the early '60's my dad's uncle was killed by a drunk driver on a Christmas Eve morning while walking his dog. The driver only spent the night of his arrest in jail. I think he got 6 mos. probation & was required to go to AA meetings. After I grew up, my parents told me that man never drank again. At least there was that. And of course his wife being the person that she was, forgave the driver.

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Corey Keizer 4 years, 2 months ago

orhs1963... It's not just Kansas that has different standards for Killing a person while driving, it's the whole country that holds that different standard. If a driver "Accidentally" hit someone and it kills them it's still just considered an Accident, and not REALLY the drivers fault. It doesn't matter if you were texting, reaching for chap-stick on the floor of the passenger side of your car, discipline your child, or being under the influence. Any of those actions which all impair your ability to drive create an "Accidental" situation. Truth is this: it's not until you can prove that a motorist acted in Malice that the "Accidental" stigma is removed, and even when it's in Malice you'll still only get 5 years....

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/01/cyclist-sentenced.html.

And that's in California, where it's all Liberals and tree hugging bike riding hippies... right?

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Irenaku 4 years, 2 months ago

What?!?!? 6 months?!? orhs, I agree completely. That judge seriously needs to step down. What a shame for the Leek family and for her friends and boyfriend.

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

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jackpot 4 years, 2 months ago

Fact is if the judge wants to they don't have to follow the deal made.

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ebyrdstarr 4 years, 2 months ago

Sure, but the judge can't go beyond the statutory maximums. The judge was pretty limited in his options here.

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samowen 4 years, 2 months ago

Those of us who have been following the story closely for the past several months and who knew Rachel knew that this type of lenient punishment was coming, so sad. As many have said, there will never be justice for Rachel or her family here. The statements made by the culpable parties that night, and even Joel's inability to accept responsibility and express sympathy for HIS OWN ACTIONS today, (re: "for what happened to"), are further evidence of this.

As someone who has left Lawrence since this accident happened, but who regularly rode my bicycle at all hours of the day and night and all over the city as was my right to do (it is NO ONE's right to drink and drive), this is a sad way to remember a town I really loved. My heart breaks reading James' words.

With love to the intelligent 1/2 of Lawrence, Rachel's family and friends, -me.

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lllwll 4 years, 2 months ago

This liberal mecca in Lawrence will forget every decision made by a judge when it is time to retain them or oust them when it is time to vote.

Drive drunk, leave. Rape: it was her fault.

Wake up people.

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trueapricot 4 years, 2 months ago

The judge gave him the maximum sentence under law for the crimes he ended up getting charged with. Get your facts straight, and write to your legislators if you really care to affect change.

Wake up, Illwll.

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audibleangel 4 years, 2 months ago

God Bless America... HA!!! I cannot believe this.......

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Slowponder 4 years, 2 months ago

There is nothing wrong with the judge in this case. The 'problem' is the legislature passing a statute that treats a categorical crime - misdemeanor manslaughter - the commission of a misdemeanor, in this case, DUI, that results in the death of a person, so lightly, as what its categorical name says, as a misdemeanor. If you are angry about this, then direct your ire properly at the legislature. They write the laws and set the penalty for crimes. If J. Malone had thrown the book at him and given him the sentence suggested by some here, the defendant would have had an easy appeal and would have won.

How many letters, emails and visits have you made to your legislators about this case?

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puddleglum 4 years, 2 months ago

maybe the deal is complicated-but too me, this is a total joke. a not-funny joke. ick.

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Amy Heeter 4 years, 2 months ago

This sentence is not a deterrent to anything, no one learned a lesson, especially the defendant. My sympathies to the Leek family. Justice was not served.

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brujablanco 4 years, 2 months ago

So, oh wise one - what would be a deterrent? Some people learn from one DUI. Have YOU ever driven drunk? Some people it take three charges of battery on another human being and then the lesson is still not learned. I wait with bated breath for your answers. LOL

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

Homeboy learning his lesson does not translate to justice.

As some other people pointed out, this family, at a minimum (financially), is out whatever lawyer/court fees as well as funeral costs. This doesn't include any investments involved with the rest of this girl's life as it was.

Joel paying a $500 fine and nothing to the family doesn't ring any justice bells in my or anyone else's heads. $500 to the family wouldn't even have probably covered her smashed bike and hospital bills had she lived.

I have some nice LED lights on front and back of my bike, but still ride scared sometimes. Apparently, it is rightfully so.

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Eride 4 years, 2 months ago

Instead of blaming the judge who has no control over the elements of a crime, the burden of meeting them or the penalty for committing them… blame the legislature who actually exercises control or better blame yourselves for not exercising responsibility for the political process.

Instead of whining on this forum about how this judge let him off easy WRITE YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE and ask them to support a bill making it easier to prosecute (and to increase the penalties) for driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene.

Maybe if even half of you dimwits bothered to even vote in our state elections the stuff you whine constantly about on this forums would be resolved. This girl died and this man was prosecuted to the extent of our current laws. Why don't you look into the mirror before sitting there and doing nothing besides whining.

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OonlyBonly 4 years, 2 months ago

The laws in Kansas are a farce! Eride is correct it's time to let the legislature know we're "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore."

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rcr 4 years, 2 months ago

Remember Judge Michael Malone come election day. Do not retain a Judge that gives a six month sentence and a $500 fine for cold blooded murder.

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MasterShake 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't get it? What was he charged with? Should it not have been Involuntary Manslaughter?

http://www.ksdot.org/burtrafficsaf/alcdriv/duilaws.asp

INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER The Kansas Legislature passed stiffer penalties effective July 1, 1996, for those convicted of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. If sentenced under this law, you will likely receive imprisonment, ranging from 38 to 172 months. A new law passed in 2001 amends the criminal history classification law dealing with the crime of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs to provide that a prior DUI violation of another state's law of a city ordinance or county resolution shall count for criminal history purposes as a person felony.

Why is the DA cutting a deal like this?

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geekyhost 4 years, 2 months ago

I think it's because they never tested his alcohol levels that night, so they didn't have enough evidence to convict if he'd plead not guilty. All they had was leaving the scene, and imho, that should carry a higher penalty, since people rarely leave scenes sober.

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pizzapete 4 years, 2 months ago

Unbelievable, 6 months is no time at all. This is just wrong in so many ways.

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Thats_messed_up 4 years, 2 months ago

Liberal judges elected by liberal hippies.

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jreid 4 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps it wasn't clear in my story, Judge Malone handed down the maximum sentence he could by law. The maximum sentence for a first-time dui is 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. The felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death is a presumed probation offense.

Janet Reid Crime & Courts Reporter

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Phog67 4 years, 2 months ago

Why wasn't he charged with something else? Manslaughter? Anything else?

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

oh, please keep posting!

Maybe you can make it clearer to us why there was no Manslaughter, criminal or involuntary?

Or elaborate what you mean concerning the leaving the scene of an accident being a "presumed probation offense"? Specifically, what does presumed entail? Like "Someone else will take care of it if I let this slide for now"? Or it is the responsibility of another judge and prosecution, concerning this specific matter, to, at another time, assign guilt and pass separate sentencing?

Just confused how (at least it appears) that a shifty person slithering off would receive less sentencing than an honest individual who had made a mistake but stood and waited for what he had coming.

When you are intoxicated, there can occur phenomena we, the drinking, call "Sobering Moments." These occur when something real drops and you are hit in the face with a temporary state of focus. Obviously all people are different, but I find it hard to believe that striking someone hard enough to kill them did not spark a sobering moment in which he thought about what to do, then did it.

I am not saying this person is a cold-blooded killer or anything, but there are some voids in the picture here as we are all trying to figure out why no other charges were involved, as well as who messed up and at what point to allow this lack of justice.

Someone pointed out earlier that KS does have law in place concerning manslaughter, and this appears to be the obvious case, so how did he escape that fate?

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tolawdjk 4 years, 2 months ago

Why do it accidentally?

Get drunk and do it and its apparently 6 months and $500.

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Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, just bail after you do it, then turn yourself in a few days later...

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bbxs 4 years, 2 months ago

it wasn't just a DUI though. he hilled a human after he decided to get into a car drunk. shouldnt killing a person, even by "accident", have a more hash punishment? 6 months jail, 1 year probation, $500... really, thats it?

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cletus26 4 years, 2 months ago

too light of a sentence. For one he was drunk while driving; violation. 2nd he hit and ran; violation. 3rd the girl died; what-shame. 4th he was drunk while driving. and 1 and 4 can be repeated. that should have gave him like 180 months and a 100% increase on that fine; we are talking about death because of this drunken-cry-baby.

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mcvey 4 years, 2 months ago

After viewing Joel's MySpace page it looks like he's having a pretty swell life. http://www.myspace.com/joel.hernandez

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afraidnot 4 years, 2 months ago

Seriously people, read the article. The defendant took a plea and the judge sentenced him within the sentencing guidelines. If you're going to rag on anyone, it should be the prosecutor who arranged the plea, not the judge.

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Tamara Degner 4 years, 2 months ago

A judge can take a recommendation or not. It is the judge who decides, not the prosecutor. This person should have been sentenced longer, in six months (or less) he will be out and on with his life while more than likely the family will still be mourning their loss.  I can only hope he is a disruptive prisoner and has to stay longer. If I am not mistaken, if you are sentenced less than a year, do you go to prison, or just county jail?
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Ward 4 years, 2 months ago

Will $500 buy another six months to make the measly sentence a paltry one year long?

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Sigmund 4 years, 2 months ago

21-3442. Involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the unintentional killing of a human being committed in the commission of, or attempt to commit, or flight from an act described in K.S.A. 8-1567 and amendments thereto. Involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severity level 4, person felony. http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/getStatuteFile.do?number=/21-3442.html

8-1567. Driving under influence of alcohol or drugs; blood alcohol concentration; penalties. (a) No person shall operate or attempt to operate any vehicle within this state while: (1) The alcohol concentration in the person's blood or breath as shown by any competent evidence, including other competent evidence, as defined in paragraph (1) of subsection (f) of K.S.A. 8-1013, and amendments thereto, is .08 or more; (2) the alcohol concentration in the person's blood or breath, as measured within two hours of the time of operating or attempting to operate a vehicle, is .08 or more; (3) under the influence of alcohol to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle; (4) under the influence of any drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle; or (5) under the influence of a combination of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle. http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/getStatute.do?number=2050

The sentencing guidelines for Involuntary Manslaughter provide for a range from 38 months to a maximum prison term of 172 months. http://www.sedgwickcounty.org/da/pdf_files/sentgrid.pdf

By fleeing the scene of the accident this POS effectively cut years off of his sentence by killing and leaving his victim to die in her own blood alone on a dark street. The DA could have prosecuted Involuntary Manslaughter but would have had a hard time proving it beyond a reasonable doubt without a blood test.Still by forcing the defendant into the expense, stress of publicly testifying, and possible conviction at trial they might have worked a better plea by agreeing to 38 months with a guilty plea to Involuntary Manslaughter.

But hey that is a lot of work for a busy DA and she was just a student after all. So until the DA decides to work the hard cases where the drunk driver flees the scene, let the blood and carnage continue to flow on the streets of Lawrence, College Party Town, Kansas.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

Thank you for being a better fact finder than I!

I tried saying that earlier, but didnt have the numbers, etc.

Agreed %100! He already slithered out of years by fleeing the scene and wasn't even prosecuted for it, but according to Janet Ried that is someone else's responsibility? But how DA is happy with himself after leaving MANSLAUGHTER out of the mix, I'll never know?

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MyName 4 years, 2 months ago

Why are you dragging your BS opinion (if such vacuous, uninformed tripe can be called that) into a thread about a miscarriage of justice? Your worthless flamebait only makes you and your ideas about politics look dumb, so why don't you do your "team" a favor and find a new hobby.

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ou812mr2 4 years, 2 months ago

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

If we legalized or decriminalized drug possession and/or let the nonviolent offenders out of jail, we'd have plenty of resources and jail space for violent offenders (the ones who should be in jail in my view).

The point is that until these sorts of crimes have serious consequences, the consequences won't serve as much of a deterrent.

And, I agree that the passengers had a responsibility as well - none of them called 911 to report it.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

i know right? they wouldnt even have had to say they were in the car with the perp! could have said they were driving and saw it happen or anything.... its on them too

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mcvey 4 years, 2 months ago

“He’s living his life, and a life for Rachel,” Lopes said. “He has an obligation to sit down and talk about how a bad thing can happen to a good person.”

The only part of this statement that could possibly be true is that Rachel Leek was indeed a good person.

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sciencegeek 4 years, 2 months ago

NOTE TO ALL KANSAS DRIVERS:

If you CHOOSE to drink and drive--and it is a choice--and you hit someone or something, be sure to leave the scene. If you stick around, you could be charged with something serious, like vehicular homicide. If you run, you'll only get leaving the scene. Then you can cry crocodile tears in court, get off easy, and brag about beating the system on a barstool when you get out, and drive home drunk again. Just like the drunk who killed my stepson.

Know why the Legislature won't increase penalties? Because there's no money in it. And because so many of them drink and drive themselves. Especially when lobbyists are buying the drinks.

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brownpiano 4 years, 2 months ago

Unfortunately I believe you. And, I am sorry for the loss of your stepson.

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redmoonrising 4 years, 2 months ago

"The six-month sentence is the maximum allowed by law for a first-time misdemeanor DUI offense." We may not like or agree with it but it's the law as written. This is something only our legislators can change, not the judges whose hands are tied by these sentencing rules. Apparently none of Mr. Hernandez' other actions resulted in a charge or he was allowed to plead down to this one (DA not judge). If one poster was sentenced to 15 months with a much larger fine, you have to wonder if this was his first DUI charge?

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Tab 4 years, 2 months ago

I am finding it hard to even believe this sentence.....does anyone wonder why one might take the law into their own hands?? If my child had been the victim, I think the sentence would have sent me over the edge of reason and sanity.

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ClaroAtaxia 4 years, 2 months ago

6 months!!!!!! Why the hell does he only get 6 #%^#$% months!!!! BULLSH!T!

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daman 4 years, 2 months ago

The fact this guy got six months is NOT on the judge, he did all he could do under the law. The problem is with the DA. This guy killed someone while drinking and driving. He was was NOT convicted for the death of young lady. He was convicted of a DUI and leaving the scene. Why didn't the DA hold him accountable for this girl's death? This is a slap in the face to the family and our community. What message has the DA sent, get drunk, kill someone and we'll just go after for you on the DUI and we'll let you slide on the death of a innocent person? Hey Mr. DA, do your job and fight for victims instead of passing the buck to the judges. You claim in your campaign to care about victims and our community, lord knows you sure spend a lot of time glad handing people and talking the talk, how about you get into the darn courtroom and do your job and start walking the walk, or step aside and let a real prosecutor in there.

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missmagoo 4 years, 2 months ago

I fail to see your reasoning here... I think it's the laws of the state of Kansas you need to take issue with.

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Richard Payton 4 years, 2 months ago

The judges sentence doesn't upset me as much as the DA's plea bargain does. The Judge gave him the max allowed by law.

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jfmrn 4 years, 2 months ago

I couldn't let this one go by without a comment. He serves six months, the family of the victim is serving a lifetime sentence without their loved one. Where is the justice in this case ???? My only daughter was killed by a drunk driver nearly 25 years ago and a day never goes by that I don't think about her and miss her. Please don't drink and drive !!!!

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Lenette Hamm 4 years, 2 months ago

What? The maximum sentence is based on a first-time DWI charge, and not on murder AND leaving the scene???? Good gawd, what is wrong with the laws? Don't EVEN get me started on the marijuana busts... can't wait to see the stiff penalties there! Mr. Leeks daughter is gone, and the pain he and his family must be dealing with is incomprehensible to me. Mr. Hernandez' family will have him back in 6 months. Maybe, just maybe this is a wake up call for him, but doubtful that anyone else will think twice about drinking and driving. Sadness abounds...

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ontheroadfitness 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm with you on this comment... WTF?!

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Emily Hadley 4 years, 2 months ago

This was no misdemeanor DWI.

"Second degree murder can also be charged in instances where the killing was unintentional but reckless under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.

The sentencing guidelines provide a range of sentence from a minimum of 147 months imprisonment to a maximum prison term of 653 months on an intentional killing, and a range of 109 months to a maximum of 493 months on an unintentional but reckless killing."

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

So why didn't they charge him with 2nd degree murder?

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Richard Payton 4 years, 2 months ago

I suggest joining Mothers Agaisnt Drunk Driving. This group has fought to make sentencing guidelines stricter for the drunk driver. Write your state legislature at kslegislature.org. Let your voice be heard.

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MyName 4 years, 2 months ago

This is the statute they should have used: http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/getStatute.do?number=11806 . It's on the books, but they still need the prosecution to at least try and do their job here.

The real question is, why didn't they? Six months and $500 is not enough, even for someone who has a clean record. This is the same penalty he could have gotten if he had just been stopped by a police officer and not hit anything.

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Amesmb 4 years, 2 months ago

Normally I'd agree with you, but it would've been hard to prove his drunken state since he fled the scene. THIS is what they should've slapped him with: http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/getStatuteFile.do?number=/21-3404.html

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daman 4 years, 2 months ago

Some of you just dont get it. This is not a problem with the law or the judge. The problem is with our DA. The defendant was convicted of DUI (1st) and leaving the scene of an accident. The law is fine, 6 months for a DUI, that's the standard fare. The problem is the DA let this guy go on the homicide. It's as if no one was killed. Had the DA done his job and tried this defendant on the homicide, the law and the judge would have been able to incarcerate him for years (4-12 depending on his criminal history), but Branson once again put the judge in an impossible position by letting him plea to the DUI ONLY. So, don't get on the judge or the law, get on your DA for letting this guy off with ONLY a DUI and leaving the scene of an accident as if no one died. Call the DA's office yourself and ask to speak with him. He is elected by us and should answer directly to us, especially given the gravity of this case and his failure to do his job. However, I will bet you anything you don't anywhere near talking to him. I know he reads this stuff so, Mr. Branson, SHAME ON YOU!!!!! I will NOT vote for you again. You have shown me time and time again that you are no prosecutor, you are nothing more than a politician.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I just spoke with an attorney at the DA's office.

According to him, they couldn't have proven the DUI since he fled the scene. Fleeing the scene is a presumptively probationary offense. The most they could have charged him with is vehicular homicide, but given the evidence they had, they couldn't have proven it - there were no other witnesses to counter Hernandez' version of events, in which he was not guilty of VH.

If they had charged him with involuntary manslaughter while DUI they couldn't have proven it, since he fled the scene.

He pled guilty to DUI, but wouldn't have if he'd been charged with IM while DUI.

So the problem here is the legislature:

  1. Fleeing the scene should be presumptive jail time rather than probation.
  2. Vehicular homicide should perhaps be a felony.
  3. Stiffer penalties for DUI might help prevent some of these tragedies.

Please call or write your legislators and urge them to toughen these laws if you are upset about this case.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Also, they couldn't charge him with 2nd degree murder because the vehicular homicide is the more specific charge, and case law/precedent states that the more specific charge should be used.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

They didn't NEED him to admit guilt. That only expedites the process.

I thought the purpose of prosecution was to find parties guilty where guilt was had? If Joel hadn't made a deal, they could have continued with the process accordingly.

The DA did not prosecute the defendant. He whispered sweet nothings, along with directions, to him so everything could move more quickly. I don't know the District Attorney or what they do, but it doesn't, according to this case, seem to have anything to do with justice.

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lawdog 4 years, 2 months ago

He's crying 'tears of joy' for ONLY receiving a 6 month sentence!!! I am totally without words right now. I hope that Rachel's family goes after anything they can get legally!

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daman 4 years, 2 months ago

Jafs,
Who did you speak with in the DA's office? When I called, they wouldn't give me Branson or any attorney on the case. I did learn through the grapevine, that there were five or six witnesses to the defendant being drunk. If they couldn't prove the DUI how did they get him to plead to it? What did they originally charge him with? Something stinks here. I will bet they charged him with some sort of homicide to look tough at the when there was a lot of attention drawn to the case and then plead it down when the dust settled. That seems to be Branson's M.O. I don't like it.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't remember his name, but he was an attorney with the office, and seemed quite well-informed about this story. In order to speak with him, all I had to do was tell the woman who answered the phone that I had some questions/feedback about this case, and she had him call me back.

The defendant had been seen at a bar, but was a large fellow. I guess without a breathalyzer, they felt they couldn't prove he was drunk. He turned himself in and pled guilty to the DUI - not sure why he did that - that's a good question.

Maybe they threatened him with charging something more to convince him to plead to the DUI, just so they'd get him on something.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

so they'd get him in and out of their face quicker, you mean?

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daman 4 years, 2 months ago

I would like to know how this story has fallen off the main page and now is wallowing in "more stories" section when there is obviously a lot of people who have something to say about our judicial system. Did someone request this story get pushed to "more stories"? I doubt I will get a response from LJW and if I do it better not be some sort of natural rotation of stories b.s. because I've seen some really lame stories stick to the main page for two days. This story had over one hundred blogs, finally something worthy of talking about and you bury it. COVER UP

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vhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

orhs1963: the family of the Douglas County Deputy Sheriff who was killed riding his bicycle made the choice not to press charges on the driver. RIP Dave.

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Sigmund 4 years, 2 months ago

jafs (anonymous) replies… "If they had charged him with involuntary manslaughter while DUI they couldn't have proven it, since he fled the scene."

Not true, it would be difficult but not impossible. The DA could have prosecuted Involuntary Manslaughter ( "under the influence of alcohol to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle") even if they might have a hard time proving it beyond a reasonable doubt. Still by forcing the driver to defend with the associated expense and stress of public trial, and at least the possibility of conviction, the DA is in a stronger position and might have worked a better deal getting 38 months with a guilty plea to Involuntary Manslaughter.

Sure it is a lot of work and there is a risk the driver might walk, but six month is a insult and only will encourage others similarly situated to flee leaving even more victims to lay dying in our streets. Sometimes you have to do the hard work even if there is a chance of losing because to do anything else is unconscionable. But presenting cases that aren't a slam dunk takes political and professional courage which is something Branson's office has rarely demonstrated.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Call the DA's office and speak with someone there and voice your opinion.

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jayhawklawrence 4 years, 2 months ago

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this accident occurred on Tennessee which is a one way street heading south.

I have ridden my bicycle a lot through this area and I know how dangerous it is and I am aware of the many fatalities over the years on this road. It is far too dangerous to ride a bike on this street or Kentucky even in the daytime. I mentioned this on this blog about a year ago and begged people not to ride their bikes on these streets. It is too dangerous.

This accident occurred sometime around midnight or later I think.

So you have a young man, driving in Lawrence, who had been drinking and did not see a bike rider on Tennessee in the middle of the night.

I think any reasonable person has to have some pity for this young man even though this was a terrible tragedy. I think we should pray for this young man.

You should not drink and drive but this is a college town. Young people are sometimes going to drink and drive home. We tried Prohibition and it did not work. I doubt if very many people on this blog have not done the same thing at one time in their life.

Do not ride bicycles on these streets, especially in the middle of the night. It is too dangerous. If you are new to Lawrence, please be aware that these streets have claimed lives too many times.

We lost a wonderful young girl.

I don't want to see this happen again. Beating up this young man more than he has already beaten up himself is not going to help anyone and threatening the judge is just stupid.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

In fact, one of the passengers was passed out.

Perhaps we should pass a law making it illegal to be a passenger in a car with a drunk driver.

Stiffer penalties for drunk driving.

Fleeing the scene carrying higher penalties (more than DUI), so people aren't rewarded for it.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

She was traveling on 10th St., not Tennessee, according to the DA's office.

He, on Tennessee, looked behind him to see if he could change lanes, didn't see her crossing Tennessee, and ran into her, according to his own account.

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Sigmund 4 years, 2 months ago

jayhawklawrence (anonymous) says… "So you have a young man, driving in Lawrence, who had been drinking and did not see a bike rider on Tennessee in the middle of the night. I think any reasonable person has to have some pity for this young man even though this was a terrible tragedy. I think we should pray for this young man."

College party town or not, I have no sympathy for a drunk driver who runs down a person walking, driving, or biking and then leaves her to die while the POS hides from the cops. I have nothing but contempt for him and I suggest you raise the standards you have for describing someone as a "man."

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ksbicyclist 4 years, 2 months ago

The sentence this guy received is a joke. My condolences to the family for their lose & for having to endure this trial & then be insulted with the sentence.

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Deb Engstrom 4 years, 2 months ago

Even though it was a very long time ago, I was young once. I did some really stupid things including driving under the influence. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Many mornings, I thanked God that I made it home safely along with all the other people I came in contact with, known and unknown. I don't understand how having joel spend more time in jail makes the situation any different for Rachel's family. Jail/prison time is not a deterrent for most -- it just makes the vindictive folks in society feel better.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

How do you suggest we prevent these tragedies, which occur far too often in Lawrence?

If the punishments aren't deterrents, why did he flee the scene? He probably knew that if he didn't, and failed a breathalyzer test, he'd be in more trouble.

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Deb Engstrom 4 years, 2 months ago

My methods of prevention would be far different from those of most people -- would focus more on bike safety and keeping people under the influence out of cars than punishment after the fact. However, I do think that the fact that Joel took a life while driving under the influence is more of a deterrent than any amount of jail time he might spend. As far as why he fled the scene, who knows?? Probably wasn't thinking too clearly and if he indeed knew he had hit someone, he was undoubtedly scared. To be honest, I'm not sure what I would have done in a similar situation at his age, so I choose not to be judgemental.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

How would you stop people from driving drunk?

We'll see whether this changes Joel's behavior in the future - his published comments don't indicate that he takes responsibility for it - the language of "what happened to her" rather than "what I did to her".

There have been a number of stories in the paper about folks who fled the scene avoiding being charged with DUI - I bet if fleeing the scene carried a higher penalty than DUI, we'd see more people staying at the scene.

And, just because you (and others) have driven drunk doesn't mean all of us do so - I've never done that and I'm sure many others never do.

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izzybear 4 years, 2 months ago

6 months what a f**king joke the man should have gotten 25 years what is so wrong where the system locks people up for 5 to 10 times that amount for fighting this man killed a young woman since when is life worth 6 months $500 and 200 hours com. service. some have said that it needs to change at the government level horse crap it can change right here we control who the DA is toss his ass out of office and elect someone who is not going to allow his office to plea killers down to a 1st time dui misdemeaner elect judges who won't accept those kind of pleas itis in our hands people. this man should also never be allowed to drive again. why? some say easy if you shoot someone you lose the privilage of owning or useing guns this man used a car and murdered her with it she will never have kids she will never marry she will never experience life. this man will, like nothing ever happened where is the deterant? where is her and her family's justice. to the family my heart goes out to you.

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2002 4 years, 2 months ago

Even if you believe everything in the article: he is remorseful, he feels awful he left the seen, he wants to tell others not to do the same, he'll live with what he did forever and so on, six months in jail is a testament to inadequate laws in Kansas. It just isn't enough. I don't think five years is enough, but it would be closer to reasonable.

As for jail not being a deterrent, who cares if it is or isn't. It's a punishment!!! That is what jail always is, a punishment. To some a deterrent and to some not, still you pay a price for your actions.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I'd rather prevent these sorts of tragedies than punish people afterwards, if it's at all possible.

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Jaylee 4 years, 2 months ago

I've been hit on my bike on Tennessee before and just lost my car there 2 weeks ago. High volume of people in a crowded space makes for tragic situations with terrible ease.

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jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I think the best lesson to take away from this tragic event is that everyone should be more careful.

Young people in particular seem less and less inclined to simply pay attention to what they're doing, and more interested in texting/playing games/etc. while walking/driving.

Bikers should be more careful about not assuming drivers will see them and stop. Drivers should be more careful. Pedestrians should be more careful.

Everyone should reconsider the notion that it's a good idea to go out and drink a lot.

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