By Alfa · Jan 27, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    Judge Ignores Plea Agreement Recommendations

    Andrew Eckhardt said he has lived with the shame of a December night
    two years ago when he, under the influence of marijuana, crashed his
    car and killed an Iowa City man.

    "I was 15 when this whole tragedy happened," Eckhardt said Friday
    during his sentencing in Johnson County District Court. "I know I need
    some more intensive treatment, because I know I have a lot to learn."

    Judge Douglas Russell sentenced Eckhardt, 17, to five years in prison
    after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

    Eckhardt originally was charged with vehicular homicide in connection
    with the crash that killed Dean Carson, 60, of Iowa City. However,
    prosecutors said the state was willing to accept the lesser charge
    because of Eckhardt's age, lack of previous felony convictions and
    problems with evidence in the case.

    Russell rejected sentencing recommendations from a plea agreement
    reached in November. Assistant Johnson County Attorney Jo McCarty
    asked that Eckhardt receive a suspended sentence, pay a fine and be
    placed on probation. Defense attorney Davis Foster sought a deferred
    judgment and asked that Eckhardt be placed in a substance abuse program.

    Russell said he based his sentence on the "nature and circumstances of
    the offense and the fact that loss of human life resulted." Russell
    said, by law, he did not consider Eckhardt's pending drug and weapons
    charges when handing down his sentence.

    "I believe this sentence will serve maximum rehabilitation for the
    defendant," Russell said, who also ordered Eckhardt to pay $150,000 to
    Carson's estate and more than $750 in fines and court costs.

    On Dec. 14, 2002, Eckhardt pulled his 2001 Chevy Malibu in front of a
    1987 Buick LeSabre driven by Carson at the intersection of Highway 1
    and Kitty Lee Road. Carson died five days later of head injuries
    caused by the accident, doctors said.

    Carson's daughter, Shawn Reynolds, said she thinks about her dad every
    day and regrets the fact that her children won't be able to see
    Grandpa Dean anymore.

    "My children and I have been cheated out of sharing so many other
    things with my dad," said Reynolds, who began to weep.

    The crash also injured Yoav Stramer -- one of two passengers in
    Eckhardt's car -- who since has sued Eckhardt seeking damages for
    medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost earnings as a result of
    his injuries.

    Eckhardt admitted to sheriff's deputies that he smoked marijuana at
    his house shortly before the accident, court records state. He also
    admitted to possessing two bags of marijuana found by deputies at the
    hospital. A urine test showed marijuana in Eckhardt's system.

    "My brother is dead and sending Mr. Eckhardt to jail isn't going to
    bring him back," Carson's brother, Steve, told the court. "I don't
    hate Mr. Eckhardt, but there have been a lot of things that have
    happened since the accident that insinuate to me that Mr. Eckhardt has
    a lot of growing up to do."

    Steve Carson was referring to Eckhardt's arrest in November during
    which police claim they found Eckhardt with a bag of marijuana, a pair
    of brass knuckles and a butterfly knife. Eckhardt also tested positive
    for cocaine, court records show.

    Steve Carson said he wanted Eckhardt to receive the maximum punishment
    in order to protect himself and others from his behavior.

    "I just don't want anyone else to get hurt," Carson said. "And in my
    dad's words, 'This young person just doesn't get it.'"

    Eckhardt said he wanted to reiterate an apology letter he said he
    wrote to the Carson family in December. Eckhardt turned to the Carson
    family and said, "I am truly sorry."

    After the sentencing, Eckhardt hugged family members before a
    sheriff's deputy handcuffed him and escorted him out of the courtroom
    to the Johnson County Jail.

    Foster said he doesn't know whether Eckhardt will file an appeal.

    "We just hope Andrew can benefit from the programs and do well when he
    is through the process," Foster said.

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