Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drunk Driving Death--4 Year Sentence, Cunning, Baffling & Powerful

The Miami Herald reports on the sentencing of a former law student, Stephen Spencer in the drunk driving death of his dear friend Scott Brenner.  Here, once again is an object lesson on driving drunk and for those of us who are alcoholics, there-but-for-the-Grace-of-God moments; the story is by reporter David Ovalle:
"Five years after he killed a pal in a drunken-driving wreck in North Miami-Dade, former Nova Southeastern law student Stephen Spencer made no excuses for the crash.  In a Miami-Dade courtroom Tuesday, Spencer turned away from the judge, faced the family of Scott Brenner and tearfully stammered his best.

'I was friends with your son,'' he said, tears trickling down his cheeks. 'There is nothing I can say, nothing to make you understand how much I loved your son.'

Spencer's apology was short but effective. Circuit Judge Antonio Marin, citing Spencer's remorse, sentenced him to what amounts to four years in prison on charges including DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. 'My heart is thoroughly torn,' Marin said. `It's a tragical situation.'

The sentencing capped a frustrating five years for the Brenner family, which lost Scott in October 2005 and has long bristled at the glacial pace of his case through the legal system.  Spencer, with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit, was driving a Ford Explorer crammed with five friends on their way to watch a University of Miami football game at the Orange Bowl. The car crashed on Interstate 95, critically injuring two young men and hurling Brenner from the vehicle, killing him.  At the time of the crash, Scott Brenner, 26, of Pembroke Pines, was a senior at Florida International University and had hoped to continue school in Israel. FIU awarded him a degree posthumously.

[Note:  Spencer was arrested for DUI and charged a second time in 2007!  Alcoholism is cunning, baffling & powerful, never doubt this assertion.]

Spencer has been sober since [since his 2007 DUI for which charges are still pending], said defense attorney Edward O'Donnell, who added that Spencer had trouble coping with the death of his father, John Spencer, a well-known forensic psychologist.  Spencer had faced at least 14 years in prison. But prosecutors Tim VanderGiesen and Luis Perez-Medina lobbied for a lesser sentence because Spencer had no prior convictions and pleaded guilty.

`He was twice the legal limit. He should have known better,' VanderGiesen said of Spencer's blood-alcohol level. `However, he can't be locked up the rest of his life . . . These are young guys who all had something going for them. Everybody lost here.'"

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