BANGOR, Maine — A 29-year-old Corinth man who struck and killed a bicyclist while driving last fall was sentenced Wednesday under a recent state law regarding fatal vehicle accidents that don’t result in criminal charges.
During a sentencing hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center, Christopher Nichols was ordered to give up his driver’s license for 18 months, to perform 250 hours of community service and give a $1,000 donation in lieu of a fine to the Special Olympics in honor of Joseph Sweet, a 27-year-old Exeter man who died after he was struck by Nichols’ pickup while riding his bicycle on Route 43, Penobscot County Assistant District Attorney Marianne Lynch said Wednesday evening.
In the absence of criminal wrongdoing under the old civil law, Nichols would have been fined $137 for failure to use care when passing a bicycle, Lynch said. The new law, enacted in 2009, has been applied only three or four times so far, Lynch said.
Nichols told police that he briefly took his eyes off the road before the crash.
Lynch said that Nichols was “very remorseful. … It’s a very serious case and the fact that we did not proceed criminally does not diminish the seriousness of the case.”
Lynch said that Nichols’ having taken his eyes off the road did not rise to the level of distracted driving, which includes such behavior as texting behind the wheel. She also noted that he was not driving impaired at the time of the accident.
Lynch said that Sweet’s family helped choose some of the organizations that will benefit from the community service hours that Nichols will be required to perform, as well as the funds he was ordered to donate. These include the Special Olympics, because Sweet had Asperger’s syndrome, and community theater, because Sweet was an actor.