Drunken Driver Begins Sentence on New Year’s Eve With AM-New Year’s Rdp Bjt
PONTIAC, Ill. (AP) _ A man convicted of killing three people with his car while drunk began serving his five-year prison term on New Year’s Eve, part of a judge’s campaign to underscore the importance of sober driving.
″I thought that the deterrent value of requiring him to surrender on New Year’s Eve might convince some not to consume alcohol and drive during the holiday,″ said Circuit Judge William Caisley in an interview from his office in Bloomington.
Walter Martin also had ″wished to spend the holiday at home with his family,″ Caisley said.
Martin’s attorney, Richard Kagan, had argued for probation, citing his client’s clean driving record and the absence of any prior criminal offense.
″It makes good rhetoric and good reading in the newspapers,″ Kagan said of the timing of Martin’s surrender. ″But I don’t think the people who are going to go out and get drunk New Year’s Eve are going to read it.″
Martin, 24, reported to authorities at the Livingston County Jail in Pontiac at noon Wednesday, according to a spokesman for the county sheriff’s police. He will be evaluated by the Illinois Department of Corrections before being assigned to one of the state’s penal institutions, Livingston County authorities said.
Martin, a soft-drink distributor, pleaded guilty in November to reckless homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and disobeying a stop sign.
Caisley said that Martin, apparently depressed over the breakup of a couple he knew, had drunk about two bottles of peppermint schnapps March 2 before running the stop sign nearly 80 mph.
Matthew and Pamela Wineinger of Morton and their year-old daughter, Abigail, were killed when Martin’s vehicle struck theirs broadside.
Livingston County State’s Attorney Thomas Brown said Martin, who registered a .21 blood-alcohol level after the accident, deserved a 10-year sentence.
″He was twice over the legal (blood-alcohol) limit, and those three lives are over,″ said Brown. People who register a blood-alcohol level of .10 or above are considered legally drunk in Illinois.
The accident ″had a profound effect on us,″ said Paul Wineinger, Matthew Wineinger’s father. ″We had Christmas this year, but it was pretty well forced by everyone because of the other grandkids.″
Martin was critically injured in the wreck and lost his spleen. After seven weeks of hospitalization and extensive reconstructive surgery, his face remains badly scarred.
Kagan said that Martin will be eligible for supervised release after serving 30 months.
″Walter Martin had never been in trouble in his life,″ he said. ″This was a fluke occurrence. What we’re doing now is destroying a fourth life, for what purpose, I don’t know.″