This morning, Tracy Kruzicki, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation for hitting and killing Tammy Gass, 44, while she was riding on County Road KK near Mosinee in 2012. According to the crash report, Kruzicki veered out of his lane and hit Gass while she was riding in the shoulder on County Road KK near Mosinee in 2012. Gass’ husband also died riding his bike on the same stretch of road in 2008.
The maximum punishment for Kruzicki’s conviction was up to six years in prison. In the Wausau Daily Herald’s video of sentencing, you can hear Kruzicki’s voice breaking when he says “I wish it could be me instead of her. She made a lot of people happy.” Although he is clearly remorseful for what he did, what kind of message does the court send with a sentence of only six months in county jail, with work release and child care for someone who has been multiple convictions of driving with a suspended license and kills an innocent person? Even adding on three year’s probation and 120 hours of community service, that still seems to be a very light sentence when the maximum was six years in prison.
Dave and Karen Mikalofsky, close friends of the Gass family, contacted me in July to express their outrage at the plea agreement that preceded this sentence:
“We were told that the DA is recommending 3 months jail time for this offense. As taxpayers and very close family friends, we are offended by this light sentence recommendation since it is clear to us that a law was broken, and a life was lost. Tammy was riding well within the paved shoulder and was wearing “hot pink” as described by a witness. Mr. Kruzicki was 22.5” outside his lane of travel. The road where the accident occurred is straight.”
While you can argue about the effectiveness and the ethics of retributive sentencing, our criminal justice system is founded deterrence in which the we “let the punishment fit the crime.” It really doesn’t seem like six months in prison with work release and child care plus some community service during an extended probation fits this crime. Even though Mr. Kruzucki seems legitimately remorseful, his long history of traffic violations, repeated cases of driving with a suspended license and the resulting tragic crash (not an accident) warrant a stiffer penalty in many people’s eyes.
Dave Mikalofsky expressed those sentiments in Tom Held’s post today on his blog The Active Pursuit, “Pretty pathetic reflection of the values of our society in my opinion, with its roots at the jail-able time for the offense in this case.”
I agree with Dave, and feel like this sentence is a sad reflection of our car-centric values in the United States. To me it says the right to drive is paramount, and we just have to live with collateral damage. Rather than outrage at a serial criminal driver killing an innocent person, we shrug our collective shoulders and say “that’s too bad.”
What do you think? Are you outraged? Are you surprised? Should the judge have thrown the book Kruzicki or do we need a more fundamental change in how we approach driving before we can expect any punishment to deter illegal, dangerous and inattentive driving?