Saying he had come out of a tragic situation a better person, a Lucas County judge agreed Friday to release from prison a Toledo man convicted in a fatal drunken-driving crash.
Rodney Lewis, 43, was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault for the March 6, 2011, crash that killed Rita Caufman, 66, of Perrysburg and severely injured her friend, Sally Palmer, then 72, of Perrysburg.
Standing with his attorney, Jerome Phillips, Lewis told Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gene Zmuda he had completed 42 programs in prison and earned 46 college credit hours, maintaining a 3.9 grade-point average.
“When you sentenced me a few years ago, I thought it was just too much,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t until I got to prison that I realized there are opportunities there to change my life.”
He said he plans to live with his parents, complete a social work assistant associate’s degree, and become a drug counselor. He also apologized to the victims, their families, and the community.
“Regarding the families and the lives that I affected, no words can express,” Lewis said. “I never thought I’d be in this position. I pray for them every single day.”
Judge Zmuda said he couldn’t recall another defendant who had availed himself of so many programs while in prison, but he was cautious about Lewis’ statement that his “horrible mistake” to drink and drive would not be repeated.
“It’s easier to have that conviction that it will never happen again when your freedom is restrained and therefore you ... aren’t exposed to those social pressures which resulted in your consuming alcohol,” the judge said.
While Judge Zmuda granted his early release from prison — Lewis has served 33 months of a 54-month sentence — he placed him on community control for five years, ordered him to initially spend up to six months in the Lucas County Work Release Program, to undergo random drug and alcohol screening, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and to refrain from drinking.
“No alcohol is to be consumed by you — ever,” the judge said. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, I do,” Lewis replied.
Judge Zumda also ordered that he complete 200 volunteer hours specifically working with intoxicated-driving offenders, speaking about his experience.
“Perfect. I would love to do that,” Lewis said.
Members of the victims’ families did not attend the hearing.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.