AVON — Mothers Against Drunk Driving Indiana is criticizing Indiana’s criminal justice system and its lax punishments for impaired drivers following the death of an elderly Danville couple this week.
Dump truck driver Danny Williams, 62, told police he snorted heroin before the September 3 crash that killed Gerald and Rhonda Legan.
Call 6 Investigates found Williams was convicted in 2015 of operating while intoxicated endangering a person.
He received a one-year suspended sentence as well as probation and had to pay restitution to the Indiana Department of Transportation for damage to a traffic signal.
Court records show “0 day license suspension” on the day of his sentence.
MADD Indiana called the Legans’ deaths “100 percent avoidable” and “inexcusable.”
“Time and again the driver in this case was caught by law enforcement while driving impaired, and the court system either suspended his jail sentence or allowed a work release,” MADD Indiana said in a statement to RTV6. “If drunk and drugged drivers are going to be held accountable, it has to happen the first time they are caught and every time thereafter. This alleged offender had many chances along the way to stop his dangerous behavior.”
MADD Indiana said impaired drivers should impost sentences that hold offenders accountable and send a message.
“The court system also had chances along the way to impose a sentence that would send the message that drunk driving is a serious, violent crime that will not be tolerated,” MADD Indiana said. “Sadly, two innocent lives have been lost to someone who allegedly chose to use drugs before driving. This tragedy was 100 percent avoidable.”
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Williams has never served time in state prison, records show. Call 6 Investigates found most drunken and drugged driving offenders do not spend time in prison.
“Drunk and drugged driving is the leading killer on our roads,” MADD Indiana said. “Whether the impairment is caused by alcohol or other drugs, there is no excuse to ever make the choice to drive.”
In June 2014, Greenfield Police Department officers arrested Williams on Interstate 70 after he crashed into an INDOT construction sign while driving his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Officers observed an empty bottle of Crown Royal on the floorboard and the vehicle smelled of alcohol, court records said.
A witness said he saw Williams’ car swerving, hit a sign, hit a barrier wall and run through a ditch.
Williams told officers he was on his way to Knightstown and admitted to drinking the bottle that was on the floor.
He submitted to a blood test, which showed Williams at .201 BAC.
Court records also show his blood tested positive for opiates in the 2014 case.
As part of his 2015 sentence, Williams had to attend a victim impact panel in which victims of impaired driving typically talk to drivers who’ve been charged with operating under the influence.
In December 2015, a Hancock County Court found Williams violated the terms of his probation.
Deputies arrested Williams for probation violations in December 2015 and again in January 2016, records show.
In a separate case in Hancock County, Williams pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in March 2015.
He received a one-year sentence, but half of it was suspended with the remainder served on home detention.
The probation violations applied to the cocaine possession case as well, records show, and on January 21, 2016, a judge sentenced Williams to 90 days in the county jail.
However, records show the court had no objection to Williams sentence being served on Community Corrections work release.
The Indiana Coalition for Crime Victim Rights also issued a statement to RTV6 regarding the September 3 crash that left an elderly couple dead.
“ICCVR is always heartbroken to learn that lives are lost daily in our country to the abhorrent act of impaired driving,” said Lael Hill, spokeswoman for ICCVR. “We want all victims and survivors to know they have rights when entering the criminal justice system. Any individual impacted by violent crime can reach out to us via Facebook to learn more about their rights as they should not have to navigate the criminal justice system blindly.”