Saturday, July 24, 2004

Driver's sentence set aside on appeal


Paraplegic hit teen at Bengals game

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

A state appeals court Friday overturned a 20-year prison term for a paraplegic who drove a car without handicap controls through a red light and killed a teenager on his way to a Bengals game in 2001.

The 1st District Court of Appeals said Judge Robert Taylor of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court was wrong to suggest less prison time to Darrin Staffordif he took a plea bargain.

During the March 2003 trial on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault, Taylor suggested Stafford consider a plea bargain to lesser charges.

If that happened, Taylor said he would likely sentence him to spend 11 years in prison. But if Stafford was found guilty at trial, Taylor said he'd be inclined to impose the entire 23 years in prison.

"We must vacate the sentence and remand for re-sentencing because the trial court improperly impinged on Stafford's right to a jury trial," wrote Appeals Judge Mark Painter. "The right to a jury trial is a fundament of American law. We will not permit a trial court to threaten a defendant with a harsher sentence if he exercises a fundamental right."

Judges Ralph Winkler and Lee H. Hildebrant Jr. concurred.

Stafford will be re-sentenced by a different judge because Taylor has since left the bench.

A jury found Stafford, 32, of Evansville, Ind., guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide for killing 15-year-old Scott Asbrock, of Mason. Stafford also was convicted on three counts of vehicular assault for injuring Stewart Williams, 23, of Middletown; Kyle Fields, 19, of Madeira; and Cincinnati Police Officer Jon Harris.

---

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




ENQUIRER COLUMNS
Doors close, St. Mark's will endure
'Ghettopia' mural helps freshen up Over-the-Rhine

TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Driver flees cop, 4 die in crash
Xavier's Father Hoff dies
Hoff leaves legacy of inspiration
Bengals' club seat arbitration blocked
Five Civil War heroes finally gain recognition
Sex offenders won't register
5-year-old won't be prosecuted
Annual cicadas emerge - a puny few million
Sharonville fire leaves dozen families homeless
Voinovich: Road funds acceptable
Rep. Chabot mediates HUD-city dispute
Driver's sentence set aside on appeal
Shawnee to visit proposed casino location in Ohio
Bill funds defense projects
Prosecutor: Evidence doesn't point to Deters
Court cuts hair case short
9-11 panel demands quick action
Kerry says intelligence reforms long overdue
Former PTO officer convicted of theft
Wright Bros. items hot
Cabinet theft brings community service
Local news briefs

KENTUCKY HEADLINES
Dems set for the big par-tay
N.Ky. libraries thrive
'Basically, obesity is slowly killing us,' governor observes
Liens place Florence team in jeopardy
DNA tests ordered in slaying
Crackdown on overweight trucks puts coal operators in hot seat

EDUCATION
'At-risk' school permit rejected

NEIGHBORS
Hamilton carves arts niche
City of sculpture
Artist in residence: Dennis C. Baker
By the numbers
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
Map of sculptures

Arson suspected at officer's home
Dodge ball's back - a softer version
Kids collect for a funeral
Anti-levy signs stolen again in Fairfield

LIVES REMEMBERED
Sylvia Stayton, 70, did 'what was right'