MACHIAS, Maine — An Island Falls man was sentenced Tuesday to serve at least three months behind bars for his role in a fatal accident that killed a Grand Lake Stream man two years ago.
Kenneth Slauenwhite, 58, received an overall sentence of eight years with all but three months suspended after pleading guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the death of Jarrod Damon.
Slauenwhite was driving a logging truck on Route 6 in Kossuth Township on Sept. 24, 2007, when the vehicle crossed the centerline of the road and struck a Maine Department of Transportation dump truck that was driven by Damon. Kossuth Township is in northeastern Washington County, east of Lincoln.
Also injured in the accident was Gregory Scott, 45, of Danforth, a DOT employee who was a passenger in the dump truck. As part of Tuesday’s proceeding, Slauenwhite also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for the injuries Scott suffered in the collision. On that charge, Slauenwhite received a concurrent sentence of five years with all but three months suspended.
Paul Cavanaugh, first assistant district attorney, said Tuesday that Slauenwhite was charged in the accident because police and prosecutors believe his negligence and recklessness led to Damon’s death. The truck Slauenwhite was driving was speeding, over the weight limit and crossed the centerline before it struck the DOT truck in the oncoming lane of traffic, he said.
“It was a combination of all those factors,” the prosecutor said. “No one is alleging intentional conduct.”
Cavanaugh said that Justice Kevin Cuddy, presiding in Washington County Superior Court, approved of the plea agreement reached by the District Attorney’s Office and Slauenwhite’s defense attorney, Stephen Smith of Bangor.
Slauenwhite is expected to turn himself in on Jan. 4 to begin serving his sentence at Washington County Jail in Machias.
Cavanaugh believes the sentence is appropriate. Prosecutors and most of Damon’s and Scott’s relatives believe the manslaughter conviction for Slauenwhite was more important than how much time he might spend behind bars, he said.
Smith said Tuesday that the sentence was appropriate for his client.
“It’s a tough case,” Smith said. “Everyone understands Mr. Slauenwhite was devastated by what happened. It was quite the emotional scene [in the courtroom today].”
Cavanaugh said the father of Damon’s widow read a statement in court on behalf of his daughter that indicated how much she misses her deceased husband. Scott, who has returned to work for DOT, also was in the courtroom for the sentencing, the prosecutor said.
As part of the sentence, Slauenwhite will have to serve a probation term of three years after his release, during which he will not be allowed to drive or to possess alcohol or drugs. Slauenwhite was not believed to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, according to attorneys involved in the case.
Cavanaugh said that Slauenwhite likely will not be allowed to drive immediately after his probation ends. The state Department of Motor Vehicles is expected to suspend Slauenwhite’s license for five years when it is notified of his manslaughter conviction, he said. After five years pass, DMV will review Slauenwhite’s situation before it decides whether to reinstate his license, according to Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh said he was not sure how badly injured Scott was in the accident. He said that two years after the accident, Scott still is dealing with minor leg and back problems.