Ohio trucker faces 31 years in prison for fatal crash

Ohio truck driver Donald P. Williams Jr. faces up to 31 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide among other charges in a March 31, 2010, accident that killed three Marine Corps recruits and injured nine other people, according to a report in the Youngstown Vindicator. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped three aggravated vehicular-homicide charges with a longer prison term.

A dashboard video camera in the truck Williams was driving for Nick Strimbu Inc., Brookfield, OH, showed that Williams, 46, did not react in any way as the truck crashed into the back of the recruits’ car, instantly killing them, Mike Burnett, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor said. The truck then traveled an additional 581 ft., hitting six vehicles and injuring nine others, Burnett said, adding that the truck’s brakes were never applied.

A forensic toxicologist’s report showed that Valium and a similar drug, nordiazepam, were present in Williams’ body and capable of causing “mental confusion” of the kind seen in the video. Williams had no prescription for the drugs, Burnett said.

“Prior to the crash, the defendant appears to stare, as if hypnotized, which is a classic effect of the drug in his system,” according to Laureen J. Marinetti, chief forensic toxicologist for the Montgomery County Coroner’s office.

 Williams was convicted in 1989 in Mahoning County of drug trafficking and drug abuse, according to the plea agreement. Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle records show Williams also was convicted of drunken driving three times — in 2000, 1992 and 1987. He was also convicted in 2000 of allowing his daughter and other juveniles to use drugs or alcohol in an Austintown motel room, according to Mahoning County court records cited in the Vindicator report.

 Williams will be sentenced in about five weeks. Judge Andrew Logan, who is presiding over the case, said sentencing guidelines call for a mandatory prison sentence on three of the charges but not on the others. No specific prison term is mentioned in the plea agreement, and Burnett told the Vindicator he hasn’t recommended a specific sentence yet.

 The crash has also spawned numerous civil suits that name Williams and the trucking company as defendants.

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