Drunk Driving Accidents

DUI manslaughter gets 20 years for car – motorcycle crash in Tampa, Florida

A one year old Tampa baby boy will never again experience the feel of a gentle hug from his father, or a good night kiss on the cheek. Nor will he hear his father’s voice reading bedtime stories to him ever again. Why? A tragic DUI car / motorcycle crash that claimed his father’s life on April 10, 2010. All because someone named Ronnie L. Henley decided he wanted to drink, and then operate his vehicle with a blood alcohol level 3 times the legal limit causing a devastating car crash resulting in a wrongful death.

No one’s life will ever be the same after such a tragedy, but on Tuesday, Circuit Judge David Rimmer sentenced the man that caused all of the suffering. I devote today’s blog to applaud Judge Rimmer for holding Mr. Henley accountable.

Henley was convicted of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash and marijuana possession and given 20 years in state prison. While this may conclude Mr. Henley’s criminal punishment, it is only the beginning of his court woes. If the decedent’s family hires a personal injury attorney to represent them for the wrongful death, he may be responsible for the resulting damages as well as punitive damages. As usual, the limits of money will be set by Mr. Henley’s bodily injury insurance coverage in his automobile policy. When those are exhausted, the decedent’s under insured motorist (UM) coverage. Under the care of a personal injury attorney, he may have to sign over most of his assets to the family of the man he killed.

News reports of the crash indicate that that Henley’s car veered into the path of a motorcyclist named Matthew Harrison, of Cantonment.

In court, the Assistant State Attorney read a letter written by Matthew’s mother telling of what a very loving and caring man he was and how loving a father he was for his one year old son. He was a man proud to be a father and proud to have a son to carry on his namesake.

Craig Vigodsky, Henley’s criminal attorney read a letter to the court written by Henley addressing the crash and Harrison’s family. In the letter he asked for forgiveness in his role of the death of their only son and that he hoped the family would one day have peace in their hearts.

During sentencing, Assistant State Attorney Kinsey stressed comments that Henley had made to Florida Highway Patrol investigators.

“He told the officers in his statement that it was just a little bump,” Kinsey said. “He knew he should have stopped. He said he knew he should have stayed. He knew he should have stopped, but he said it wouldn’t have done any good.”

Approximately 30 members ABATE of Florida — a motorcycle group that lobbies for stricter laws protecting motorcyclists — attended the hearing and sat with Harrison’s family showing their support and understanding of the family’s huge and unrecoverable loss.

Satch VerCrouse, president of the local chapter of ABATE said, “When we got here today, I met with the parents and they were glad that we were here. Our goal is to keep people like (Henley) off the highway. When you put them in jail, they can’t drive.”

Although Harrison’s mother was pleased with the sentence given, the maximum would not bring back the son she loved. She was quoted as saying, “He was a good person. He never missed a day of work. He was looking forward to raising his baby,” she said. “It’s just sad that he won’t be here to do that, and we have to take his place.”

My heart goes out to the families of this terrible tragedy.

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