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Drunken Driver Gets 15-30 Years

May 27, 1999

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A carpenter who predicted he would get a light sentence because the two people he killed while driving drunk were from another country was sentenced today to 15 to 30 years in prison.

Nicholas Kurch, 35, was convicted this month of vehicular homicide and drunken driving in the deaths of Sujan Tuladhar and Dr. Alok Chalise, both of Nepal. It was Kurch’s fifth conviction for driving drunk. He reportedly told a jailhouse informant that nobody would care because the victims were foreign.

He could have been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

``There was no other option but to lock him up,″ Assistant Allegheny County District Attorney Dan Cuddy said.

Kurch said he wished he could undo the fatal accident, but added that he planned to appeal his sentence,

``It would be quite selfish of me to ask forgiveness. I am not here to do so,″ Kurch said.

Kurch wasn’t supposed to be driving Dec. 7, 1996, but he drove away from a bar anyway, authorities said.

He had been banned from driving for 18 years when he lost control of his girlfriend’s van and it crossed a divider, sailed through the air and slammed head-on into the car that Tuladhar and Chalise were in on State Route 65 near Pittsburgh, police said.

Kurch argued with the police officer who tried to free him from the wreckage, according to authorities, and an empty vodka bottle was found nearby. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.37 percent _ more than triple Pennsylvania’s legal limit of 0.10 percent for driving.

The carpenter had his license suspended in 1983, when he refused a blood-alcohol test during an arrest, which led to his first conviction. He has been cited 13 times for driving without a license, three other times for drunken driving, once for speeding and once for running a red light.

``It has to be one of the worst driving records I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of them,″ Allegheny County Judge Robert Colville said.

A jailhouse informant testified during trial that Kurch bragged that he could get a plea agreement because the victims were ``two ‘gooks’ from another country, that their families weren’t going to be there, that it was too far, nobody would care.″

The informant, a convicted burglar, also said that Kurch said no jury would believe his blood-alcohol level was so high.

Tuladhar, 24, was about to graduate from the University of Georgia. Chalise, 31, had come to Pittsburgh to visit friends.

Since the accident, Kurch has been diagnosed with testicular cancer, said his attorney, Patrick Thomassey.

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