EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A judge has sentenced the driver in a deadly crash in Apr. 2013 to a year in jail.
The sentence was handed down to Andrew Schmitt, 33, of Stanley on Friday. He was also ordered to serve 10 years of probation.
Investigators say Schmitt admitted to drinking before the crash last Apr. near Augusta. He initially told police he didn't remember driving, but investigators later determined that he was behind the wheel when the truck slammed into a utility pole on County Road N in the Town of Bridge Creek. His passenger, Nicholas Neuenfeldt, 40, of Boyd, died in the wreck. Investigators later found that Schmitt's blood alcohol content was .193 percent.
Judge Michael Schumacher said he considered the importance of protecting the public, punishing criminal behavior, and rehabilitating Andrew Schmitt, who had some prior alcohol violations but was considered a low risk to reoffend.
“Mr. Schmitt, there's no reason for you to deny or wonder if you have an alcohol abuse problem, you do,” Schumacher said.
“I know that,” Schmitt responded.
Schmitt had an opportunity to face his “best friend's” family and apologize.
“I'm sorry for what has happened. It's the worst thing to ever happen to me. If I could change it, I would and I'm sincerely sorry,” he said.
Schmitt's attorney Robert Thorson called it a tragedy, saying it was a tough decision for the judge to make.
“The court came to a good decision. I don't know that there's any one right decision, but the court did do a balancing test and I think that's a difficult thing for everybody,” Thorson said.
District Attorney Gary King declined to do an on camera interview but said he was "completely dissatisfied, respectfully” with Schmitt’s sentence. King had asked the judge to sentence Schmitt to five years in prison.
Both Thorson and Judge Schumacher said they hope the public can learn from Schmitt's mistakes.
“The factors are not unique as to people drinking and driving, and this one ended up in a terrible tragedy for everyone,” Thorson said.