Six months for man who killed Tammy Gass

Storystream:
Killers get probation, but victims’ families want justice
Felony charges in Marathon County death
Bicyclist killed in Marathon County 

Tracy Kruzicki

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.

Tammy Gass with one of her children. She is survived by her husband Photo courtesy Dave and Karen

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?

 

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 11 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave lives with his wife Liz and daughter Frankie in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

6 thoughts on “Six months for man who killed Tammy Gass

  1. As much as I love riding my road bike, the cars are definitely winning the battle. I find myself on more bike paths, trails and riding my mountain bike more while cycling less in general as the risks seem to be increasing. Dane County (and Wisconsin) has been hammered with bicycle incidents lately and the nonchalance that many people treat the death of cyclists around here is disheartening to say the least.

  2. I am absolutely outraged! I believe I commented on this back when they were talking about the plea deal and may have even called the court system up there (I think we were provided a number) to express my concern. I am blown away that a career criminal can get by with that and somehow that is okay.! How is that okay? I am so frustrated that we the people aren’t having our voices heard, and that the “right” thing isn’t being done. Same as that case up in Kimberly. It is just not right. How do we get heard though? I am open for suggestions — letters and phone calls just don’t seem to do it.

  3. Actually there is a little more: said by Jacobson during sentencing, “I believe (this sentence is) the best way for you to repay society and the best way for the message to get out there to other people who may choose to drive without a license that certainly something can happen beyond just a fine.” Are you kidding me!! The judge is worried about getting the message out for driving without a license! No mention of taking the life of an innocent human being by someone who has no regard for what is proper. I mean seriously — check out this guys record. If any of us had a record like this: http://wcca.wicourts.gov/pager.do;jsessionid=4B76CC339F32643BD8DA007E1208454A.render6?cacheId=214560F8BAF9B1FCFFFC3929CCD72AEC&offset=0&sortColumn=0&sortDirection=DESC
    OMG!

  4. Pathetic sentence, but in a way, I am shocked he got any jail time. So many accidents go without more than a ticket.

    Every year when I finish up riding outdoors I thank God that I made it safely through the season. There are always too many close calls with drivers who believe their rights surpass mine (ours). I am very sorry for another loss in the biker community.

  5. I wish I could say I am shocked by the outcome, but I’m not as this seems to be the new relative normal when it comes to bikes vs. cars.

    I’ve given up biking on the road after numerous close calls, because even though I believe I should have equal rights a minority percentage of drivers do not and have the ability to seriously ruin my day/ life with little to no impact to theirs.

    Cases like this set a trend of progressively worse conditions for bikers on the road. My solution has been to stop road riding in favor of mountain biking where I at least don’t have to worry about being blindsided by a driver whom the current laws serve better to protect.

  6. With the way these prosecutions seem to typically go, I’ll actually admit that I’m surprised they even went for this much jail time after the guy. I’m not happy about that and it saddens me that society en large continues to look at these as accidents in which there is nothing to do after the fact.
    As for biking on roads, I will continue to do that as I continue to know it remains a safe activity and the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

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