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Michael French, crying and expressing sorrow, could not muster up a full sentence today when speaking to the victim’s family in the Perrysburg Municipal Court when he was sentenced for a vehicular manslaughter conviction.
The 38-year old truck driver from Pleasant Prairie, Wis. reached down for a water bottle on Feb. 18 while driving on the Ohio Turnpike and didn‘t see stopped traffic until it was too late and his rig struck the rear of a sport utility vehicle, killing its driver, John Madden of Fremont.
He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation and had his driver’s license suspended and was ordered to pay a $750 fine and to undergo counseling. His jail time was suspended if he makes it through probation without incident. The maximum penalty for the second-degree misdemeanor was 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
“This was a tragic, tragic accident,” Judge Molly Mack said. “Two good people unfortunately met, and it ended in a very tragic result.”
She mentioned Mr. French was not speeding, texting, under the influence of alcohol, or on his phone. The victim‘s family members who were present did not wish to speak, outside of a letter submitted to the judge. Judge Mack said Mr. Madden, 67, was a veteran and volunteer.
Mr. French pleaded no contest in April. Judge Mack ordered him to undergo counseling, even if he doesn’t want to, because this will “haunt him” even if it doesn‘t now. There was no time frame for the counseling.
Before the sentencing, Mr. French’s attorney Jerry Phillips told the judge that since the accident his client has been unemployed and is going blind in one eye.
“I looked down for my water and it was too late,” Mr. French said to the court. “I tried to avoid left hard, but couldn’t make it in time.”
Contact Matt Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.