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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally some good news

No jail time in Alton road death: Judge relents to wishes of victim's family

By Gail Ober
Thursday, November 5, 2009

LACONIA — The Alton man who killed one of his passengers in a drunken driving crash in September 2008 will not serve any time behind bars, despite his guilty plea, a Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday afternoon.

Ryan Sell, 27, of 33 School St., wept as he apologized to the family of Robert H. Richey of Florida who died when the sport utility vehicle he was driving missed a poorly marked corner and ran into a culvert on Avery Hill Road.

"To sentence Ryan to jail will cause more grief and tragedy," said Megan Quinn who spoke for the entire Richey family, many of whom were in court for the sentencing hearing in Belknap County Superior Court.

"We, the family deserve, to have something positive come from this. We need something positive," she said as she pleaded with Judge Kathleen McGuire to allow Sell to continue with community service, but not to put him in jail. "We can't bear to see another life lost to the shuffle of the system."

Belknap County Attorney James Carroll had asked for Sell to serve 12 months for the vehicular homicide and had agreed to suspend a two- to four-year prison sentence for aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Sell's attorney, Mark Sisti, told McGuire Sell takes complete responsibility for what he had done and has "from the day it happened."

"I don't think taking a chance on Ryan Sell is taking a chance," continued Sisti, who said Sell does not have a drinking problem and has never used drugs or gotten even a traffic ticket.

After silently reviewing her notes for a few minutes, McGuire told those in the courtroom she could not remember a time in her 20 years on the bench when she did not impose prison on someone convicted of negligent homicide — until this time — a statement that brought tears and hugs from both Sell's friends and family as well as Richey's.

McGuire said she was "most persuaded" by Sell's intent that night, which was clearly not to drive.

According to testimony, Sell had gotten a ride to one area club with his mother-in-law and had walked to a neighboring club to meet his wife. His intent was to walk home.

Instead, Sell's uncle, Brian Eagles of Alton, asked Sell to drive him and three of his friends home, one of whom was Richey.

"His judgment was impaired but when he drank, he did not intend to drive," said McGuire who also agreed to let both sides stipulate that Sell did not drink between the time he left the club and the accident.

McGuire said she also considered the rainy, foggy evening, testimony stating the sign at the intersection was misleading and that Sell was familiar with neither the road nor the car.

"The wishes of both families is also critical," she continued. "And, by all accounts, he has been a positive hard-working member of the community."

McGuire sentenced Sell to 12 months in jail, but suspended that portion of the sentence on condition of good behavior. She also sentenced him to two to four years on the aggravated drunken driving, all suspended. He will be on probation for two years and will have to undergo an alcohol evaluation at his own expense. Sell must further perform 200 hours of community service.

The Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Sell's license for four years. However, he can reapply for it in two years.

When asked if he was satisfied with the sentencing, Carroll said the judge imparts the sentence and he respects the sentence.

"There was no way I wasn't going to ask (for jail time) because I think deterrence is important," Carroll said. "It's my job, and I will continue to do it."