A truck driver who was under the influence of methamphetamine when he crashed into a group of cyclists, killing five people, on a Nevada highway in December was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Wednesday, a prosecutor said.
The driver, Jordan Alexander Barson, 45, will be eligible for parole after 16 years in prison, according to Steven B. Wolfson, district attorney for Clark County, Nevada.
Mr Barson’s attorney, Damian Sheets, said his client could be paroled in 10 to 12 years if he follows an appropriate program in prison.
Prosecutors said Barson crashed into a group of cyclists on US 95 near Searchlight, Nevada, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas, on the morning of December 10.
The cyclists took part in an annual 130-mile ride from Henderson, Nevada, to Nipton, Calif., And back. Five died on the highway and several others were injured, prosecutors said.
The cyclists who were killed have been identified by authorities as Erin Michelle Ray, 39. Michael Murray, 57; Aksoy Ahmet, 48 years old; Thomas Chamberlin Trauger, 57; and Gerrard Nieva, 41.
“It was a terrible, terrible deal,” Mr. Wolfson said in an interview. “It cost everyone dearly. “
Relatives of the victims spoke to the court about the grief and pain they have experienced since losing their loved ones.
Mr Trauger’s widow Donna told Judge Bita Yeager of the Eighth Clark County Judicial District Court that she always kept her husband’s ashes in an urn on a chest of drawers next to her bed and her brush. teeth and razor on the bathroom sink, according to The Revue-Journal de Las Vegas.
“I can’t bear to take anything out of it,” she said, according to the newspaper. “I’m not ready to remove all traces of him. That’s all I have left.
Before being sentenced, Mr. Barson apologized to the families of the victims.
“Knowing that I caused the deaths of five beautiful people and seriously injured two others is unbearable most of the time,” he said, according to Fox 5 in Las Vegas. “I have caused so much pain in all of your lives, and I want you to know that I am so sorry for what I have done. I know you will carry this pain forever, and it breaks my heart to have caused this. If I could give my life to bring back your loved ones, I would. I am so ashamed of myself.
The part of the highway where cyclists were hit on December 10 has a speed limit of 75 mph. But the highway is generally considered safe for bicycles due to its wide shoulder, local cyclists said.
Mr Barson was initially charged with five counts of impaired driving resulting in death as well as other counts which could have resulted in his conviction to more than 100 years in prison, Mr. Sheets.
But as part of a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to plead guilty in April to two counts of drunk driving resulting in death, Sheets said.
Asked about the deal, Mr Wolfson said if the case had been tried, it was possible that a judge blocked as evidence the blood test that determined Mr Barson had methamphetamine in his system.
Mr. Wolfson blamed the potential problem with the blood test on the Nevada Highway Patrol’s “less than perfect investigative work”.
“Rather than running the risk of losing the DUI felony charges, we felt it was in the best interest to enter into this deal and, under the circumstances, it was appropriate,” Mr. Wolfson said. “In the end, we believe justice has been served because he will be serving a long period of prison. “
Mr Sheets said his client refused to donate blood to investigators four times before they took the sample which revealed methamphetamine in his body. Mr. Sheets called the blood test a violation of Mr. Barson’s rights.
Mr Sheets said when his client is released from prison he hopes to visit churches and rehab clinics to talk about the dangers of drug addiction. He said Mr Barson was “incredibly sorry for what he did” and “wanted the families to have a closure”.
“He hopes that one day they can forgive him,” Mr. Sheets said in an interview. “He hopes that one day he can forgive himself.”