When Robert Hewett lost his father at a young age, it was his uncle who filled the void.
“Think about the one person in your life that’s had the most influence on you. That’s who he was to me,” Mr. Hewett told Circuit Judge Mark Moseley minutes before the judge accepted a plea agreement from David Curtis Moody for two counts of vehicular manslaughter the morning of March 26.
In return for his no contest plea, Mr. Moody was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, minus 24 months credit for time served, and 10 years of drug offender probation.
Mr. Hewett’s uncle, Arthur S. Hewett, 61, was killed when the speeding 2009 Pontiac allegedly driven by the defendant crossed the center line on SR 121 south and collided with the victim’s Toyota pickup about 6:15 am on February 2, 2009.
The crash also took the life of Charles C. Sharp of Jacksonville, who was inside the Pontiac and pronounced dead at the scene along with Arthur Hewett.
“He made me the Christian man I am today,” Robert Hewett said of his uncle, a construction supervisor from Lake Butler.
Facing nine counts that included vehicular homicide, DUI, DUI with property damage or injury and careless driving on a suspended license resulting in death or serious injury, Mr. Moody was close to accepting a plea deal last December.
Judge Moseley, who sentenced another defendant seven days before for DUI manslaughter, reluctantly accepted Mr. Moody’s new plea pact.
He said the four-year prison term with two years credit was “a considerable downward departure” from the maximum sentence — 30 years — the defendant could have gotten if convicted on two counts of vehicular homicide.
Should Mr. Moody violate the terms of his 10-year probation, including that he not consume or possess alcohol or drugs, he could face the same maximum penalty.
“For everyone involved, this has been a difficult process … even for me,” said Judge Moseley. “This is a difficult plea to accept because of the loss of two lives.”
This penalty is not one I would usually accept.”
Third DUI manslaughter plea in seven days
William Chad Hardin of Live Oak was the third man to plea no contest to DUI manslaughter and other charges before Circuit Judge Mark Moseley in seven days.
Mr. Hardin, 25, was adjudicated guilty and sentenced the afternoon of March 26 to eight years in prison, minus the 2 years and 74 days he’s been in county jail since his arrest in January, 2011.
Six months before, on July 11, 2010, Mr. Hardin was at the wheel of a 2000 Chevrolet pickup heading east on US 90 between Olustee and Sanderson about 3:20 am when the truck drifted into the westbound path of a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria driven by 15-year-old Travis D. Suggs of Lake City.
Mr. Suggs was killed by what a Florida Highway Patrol described as a “slightly offset head-on collision” that seriously injured four passengers in the truck and Mr. Hardin.
The report from FHP states several empty beer cans and a liquor bottle were found in the bed of the pickup. While interviewing Mr. Hardin at the hospital, an FHP trooper said he detected a moderate odor of alcohol and observed the defendant’s eyes were glossy and blood shot, and his speech slurred.
A laboratory analysis showed that Mr. Hardin’s blood alcohol level the time of the crash was .107, slightly above the .08 threshold the state considers intoxicated, the officer’s report indicates. The analysis also detected the presence of THC, the active ingredient in pot, in the defendant’s blood.
Toxicology results on the teenage victim, who didn’t have a drivers license, showed he was drunk as well with a blood alcohol level of .127 and marijuana in his system.
Neither of driver was wearing a seat belt.
Assistant State Attorney Ralph Yazdiya said Mr. Suggs’ parents and three of the four passengers injured in the crash, who were all 18 years old or younger, agreed to the plea deal reached between his office and Mr. Hardin and his attorney, Justin W. Blow of Live Oak.
Judge Moseley accepted Mr. Hardin’s no contest plea to DUI manslaughter in return for the 8-year prison term and to four counts of DUI resulting in serious bodily injury in exchange for 15 years of drug offender probation upon his release.
He must serve at least four years of the eight-year term.
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