A 60-year-old Ann Arbor man who was driving drunk when he caused the death of a Sakstrup's Towing driver in March was sentenced Tuesday to three to 20 years in prison.
Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton told William Lyle he was sending him to prison because of the dangers he imposed on other drivers.
"Drunk driving is a hideous crime because there's no way we can protect ourselves against it," Shelton said.
Shelton sentenced Lyle on one count of operating while intoxicated causing death, a charge Lyle pleaded guilty to in July.Police reports show Lyle drove past an emergency vehicle and flares that had been set up at a traffic crash scene on March 9 on westbound I-94 near US-23. Michael Johnston, 46, of Ann Arbor, was operating a tow truck that was pulling a vehicle out of a ditch. Johnston, who was standing beside his tow truck, was killed instantly when struck by Lyle's vehicle.
Prior to being sentenced, Lyle said the hurt and pain of the event has stayed with him. He said he is an alcoholic and is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Lyle's defense attorney, John Shea, said Lyle has not taken a drink since the day Johnston died.
"I blame nobody but myself," said Lyle. "It's unimaginable to me that I took the life of another person. I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and pain I caused the Johnston family. They didn't deserve it."
Johnston's two sisters and brother made emotional victims' impact statements, stopping sometimes to compose themselves.
Susan Johnston-Vivian said there has been a "big, black cloud hanging over our family" since the death of her younger brother, who she said had "a heart of gold."
"This senseless and avoidable tragedy looms in the air like black smoke," Johnston-Vivian said.
Mary Stasiak, Michael Johnston's younger sister, told Lyle, an insurance agent, he was well aware of the dangers of drunk driving."It's difficult to understand that you made your livelihood protecting people from the (same) crime that you committed," Stasiak said.
Michael Johnston's older brother, Daniel Johnston, said he is a recovering alcoholic who drank for 25 years and had drunk-driving convictions. While he said he could relate to Lyle, Johnston said Lyle had a choice not to drink and drive because "he knew what the risks were."
"My brother paid for Mr. Lyle's poor choice," Johnston said. "I truly believe Mr. Lyle did not intend to kill my brother, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Johnston then gave Lyle some advice: "Surrender, trust God, clean house, help others and you will get through this."
Thursday, September 18, 2008
MI Man Sentenced in Death of Tow Truck Operator
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 1:16 PM