TEEN GETS 5 YEARS
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
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.