BANGOR, Maine — A Danforth man convicted of driving drunk during a crash that paralyzed his former girlfriend and endangered the life of their unborn child will spend at least six years in prison, ruled Penobscot County Superior Court Justice William Anderson on Wednesday.
Anderson sentenced Jayson Caron, who is now 31, to eight years in prison with two years suspended followed by three years of probation. Caron also was ordered to pay $2,100 in fines and will be barred from driving for six years after he gets out of jail.
“There isn’t any evidence that this phase of [Caron’s] life is over,” said Anderson before announcing the sentence. “It’s hard for me to conclude that he has accepted any responsibility for his actions before today.”
Caron, who remained stoic during the hearing until he read a prepared statement, said he harbors substantial regret.
“I am very, very sorry for what has happened,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “The result of my decisions has ruined my life. I made bad decisions, but I am not a bad person.”
Bobbi Jo Norris, 19, of Mattawamkeag, Caron’s former girlfriend and the mother of their daughter, wept during portions of Wednesday’s hearing as she sat in the wheelchair that doctors say she will use for the rest of her life. She and her family declined questions from a reporter, but her mother, Robin Clark, had harsh words for Caron when she addressed the courtroom.
“Bobbi Jo will never walk again,” Clark said after turning to face Caron directly. “You tore our family apart. I think you should sit behind bars for years and years and years and think about the heartache you’ve caused. She’s going to suffer for the rest of her life, and not just a little. A lot.”
A jury found that Caron was drinking on Sept. 1, 2007, during the Springfield Fair, where he was expecting to participate in a truck pull. After being barred from the event for being drunk, he and Norris left the fair with Norris driving. A witness testified during the trial that she saw the two switch positions before leaving a con-venience store they stopped at on the way home.
“The defendant made the conscious decision to remove a sober driver from behind the wheel so he could drive,” Penobscot County Assistant District Attorney Gregory Campbell said during Wednesday’s hearing.
In summarizing testimony from the trial, Campbell said that Caron lost control of the truck a few miles from the store on North Road in Carroll Plantation. The truck overturned and ejected both Caron and Norris. Norris has endured 15 operations since the accident. Despite her injuries, Norris, who was about 17 weeks pregnant, was able to later deliver a healthy baby girl who is now almost 2 years old.
Caron is now married to another woman, according to Campbell.
On June 18, a Penobscot Superior Court jury convicted Caron of aggravated assault, aggravated operating under the influence and operating under the influence. He has been in prison ever since.
Caron’s defense attorney, F. David Walker of Bangor, tried unsuccessfully to convince the jury that Norris was driving during the accident, which Campbell argued showed a lack of remorse. On Wednesday, Walker said Caron doesn’t remember who was driving, but that the strategy used in his defense should not be a factor in the sentencing process.
Walker said the strategy was his idea and that his client never accused Norris.
It would have been easy for him to point the finger to her, but he never did that,” Walker said. “He remembers leaving the fair but nothing after that.”
Prosecutor Campbell argued for a 10-year sentence based on several aggravating factors; Walker urged a sentence of half that. Justice Anderson sided substantially with the state in imposing the eight-year sentence, citing several aggravating factors. Among them were that Caron has three prior convictions for operating under the influence, that he took the keys from a sober driver, and that several people warned him he was too drunk to drive.
“His conduct was quite serious and I would say extremely reckless,” said Anderson.
Caron, who has been in prison since his conviction, requested a one-week delay in starting his sentence so he could winterize his home and visit an elderly grandmother.
Anderson rejected both requests.
Walker said after the hearing that a five-year sentence would have been more appropriate. Asked whether Caron will appeal his conviction, Walker said, “We’re going to be reviewing his options.”