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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Man gets 4 years in vehicular assault

Thomas Kern is handcuffed after being sentenced to four years in prison for aggravated vehicular assault after a car crash in May 2003, seriously unjured former Wayne Mayor James David. Thomas Kern is handcuffed after being sentenced to four years in prison for aggravated vehicular assault after a car crash in May 2003, seriously unjured former Wayne Mayor James David.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

BOWLING GREEN - A Bradner man was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday for causing an accident that left former Wayne Mayor James David in a hospital bed or wheelchair for the past 10 months.

Thomas Kern, 40, could be eligible for judicial release in six months, but Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey warned him that he would be sent back to prison to finish his sentence if he consumed alcohol during the five years after his release.

In addition, Judge Kelsey suspended Kern's driver's license for five years.

"I guess I want to give you a taste of what prison is like," the judge said. "Hopefully, that will give you the incentive to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life."

Before imposing the sentence, Judge Kelsey read through Kern's criminal convictions: driving under the influence in 1994; open container of alcohol twice during 1995; driving under the influence in 1997; driving under the influence in 1998, and alcohol consumption in a motor vehicle in 2001.

"I'm basing this sentence on Mr. Kern's long history of drunk driving," the judge said.

Former Wayne Mayor James David. Former Wayne Mayor James David.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

In February, Kern pleaded no contest and was found guilty of aggravated vehicular assault, a third-degree felony.

Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers had recommended Kern be sentenced to six months in jail and undergo alcohol and drug treatment.

Mr. David and his family members, who were in court yesterday, said they were happy the judge decided to make the penalty stiffer.

"I think it's fair. I really do," Nancy David, his wife, said afterward. "I was afraid it may only be six months, but I hope he stays [in prison]. I'm sorry."

Mr. David, who was wearing shorts that revealed the scars and injuries to his legs, said he will now be able to travel Pemberville Road without worrying.

He was driving that road to work at Walbridge Coatings on the afternoon of May 23 when he was struck head-on by Mr. Kern, who had gone left of center. He was hospitalized for nearly four months, and he still cannot walk, work, or use his left hand.

In a statement read to the court by his wife's cousin, Beth Fritz, Mr. David said he had undergone five surgeries on his left leg and three on his left arm.

"I do not have a day go by that I do not relive the experience of this incident," he wrote. "Every day I see that vehicle coming across the center line, and I had nowhere to go. I was on my way to work to provide for my family, and in a split second, my life has become miserable."

Mr. David was mayor of Wayne, an eastern Wood County village, for 16 years but did not run for re-election last November because of his injuries.

Before Judge Kelsey announced the sentence, Kern turned to Mr. David and apologized, saying he wanted to financially help the Davids.

"This has destroyed both our families," he said.

His attorney, Cynthia Doss, said her client recognized that he made a wrong decision by going out to celebrate a friend's birthday the day of the crash. She said Kern, a Jeep employee, had eight children who would become victims as well if their father was sent to prison.



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