Driver gets 6 years in fatal crash

Posted June 01, 2009, at 3:07 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A Detroit man was sentenced to six years in prison and four years’ probation after pleading guilty to killing a friend in a car accident in Troy last fall.

Charles E. Erickson Jr., 33, entered his guilty plea in Waldo County Superior Court earlier this year and was sentenced by Justice Jeffrey Hjelm on Monday.

Erickson was driving drunk on Route 220 in Troy at approximately 1:50 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008, when he lost control of his pickup truck while attempting to pass another vehicle on the right and rolled over several times. Passenger Scott Goulette, 40, of Detroit was killed in the crash. Another passenger suffered a broken sternum.

Erickson was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but six years suspended, four years’ probation, $10,000 restitution and 200 hours of community service for manslaughter.

Erickson also received a concurrent six-year prison term for operating while under the influence of intoxicants and a concurrent six-month term for operating beyond license restriction. He was fined an additional $2,100, and his license and registration were suspended for 10 years. Conditions of his probation require that he not consume intoxicants.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Hjelm noted that Erickson and Goulette had been close friends and observed that Erickson “had sentenced himself to a life punishment that will extend way beyond the time when he has served his debt to society.”

Hjelm said a factor in the sentence was that Erickson had two prior OUI convictions and that a condition of his license prohibited him from driving after consuming alcohol. Hjelm noted that a blood test taken three hours after the wreck revealed that Erickson’s blood alcohol level was 1.5, nearly twice the legal limit.

“We are dealing in a crime that involved the ultimate loss,” Hjelm said. “Mr. Erickson made choices that night. Mr. Erickson chose to drink, Mr. Erickson chose to drive, Mr. Erickson chose to get intoxicated, and Mr. Erickson chose to get behind the wheel.”

According to reports filed with the case, Erickson and his friends had attended a party that night and he and his wife left in separate vehicles. At some point, Erickson came up behind the car his wife was riding in and attempted to pass it on the right. The wheels of his truck hit the soft shoulder, and when Erickson attempted to pull back onto the highway, he overcorrected and his pickup truck rolled over several times before coming to rest on its wheels.

Justice Hjelm noted that “so many people have been damaged and affected” by Erickson’s decision to drive that morning, including Goulette’s 9-year-old son who has been “traumatized” by the loss of his father.

Hjelm said he was aware that Erickson was remorseful for his actions and complimented him for apologizing to the victim’s family and accepting blame for the crash. Hjelm said he decided to impose community service because he believed Erickson could be an “important influence” on people who need guidance from someone “who has been there,” such as school groups, people in recovery or people who should be in recovery.

“One thing everyone wishes I could do but can’t do is turn back the clock,” Hjelm said. “Decisions have been made and events have been caused by the criminal conduct of an individual. … These sentences do not provide comfort or solace to anybody. These sentences are not the end of this case.”

wgriffin@bangordailynews.net

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