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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Six lives, 19 years

WHAT penalty do you suppose would be appropriate for a man who kills six people? Death? Life in prison?

The question is hardly hypothetical - Brian Woody got 19 years and thinks that's much too harsh. We beg to differ.

Woody was convicted on six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide after he caused a chain-reaction crash last summer that took the lives of six people, including four children, on State Rt. 2 near Port Clinton.

At his sentencing on March 4, Woody encountered a very unsympathetic judge. Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Moon sentenced Woody to six consecutive, not concurrent, three-year terms for the deaths, and one additional year for a single count of aggravated vehicular assault.

Now Woody is appealing on the grounds that the court should have cut him some slack as a first-time offender and sentenced him to seven one-year terms, served concurrently. In other words, Woody figures a 12-month jail sentence is plenty for ending the lives of six individuals.

We can't imagine that's a sentiment any rational, responsible person shares.

The six who died in the terrible crash were on their way home to Detroit after a day at Cedar Point. The accident may be considered Woody's first offense, but it was hardly his first offensive behavior.

Judge Moon noted as much in handing down his sentence, citing Woody's reckless conduct in drinking and using drugs on the day of the accident and for compiling an atrocious driving record full of violations over the years. This is a guy who should not have been driving a motor vehicle at all, much less at a time when alcohol and narcotics were in his system.

The judge rightly recognized what so many others do not - the inadequacy of minimal penalties for truly grievous crimes. "The shortest term would demean the seriousness of the offense," he said.

Back in January, when Woody pleaded no contest to the charges, Assistant Ottawa County Prosecutor Lorrain Croy said he deserved credit for his willingness to accept responsibility for what happened. So why does he run from it now?



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