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Published: Friday, 4/1/2005

Precedents ignored in Woody case, appeal claims

BY STEVE EDER
AND STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Brian J. Woody is appealing his 19-year prison sentence for igniting a chain-reaction crash that killed six people last year on State Rt. 2 on the basis that the judge violated U.S. Supreme Court rulings on sentencing guidelines.

On March 4, Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Paul Moon ordered the 29-year-old East Toledoan to serve six consecutive three-year terms for each of six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and a one-year consecutive term for aggravated vehicular assault. During sentencing, the judge cited the loss of life, Woody's use of drugs and alcohol the day of the crash, and a driving record full of violations.

Adrian Cimerman, an attorney for Woody, said yesterday Judge Moon violated the high court's decision in Blakely v. Washington last year, which said judges must rely on the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant in imposing a sentence. Mr. Cimerman believed Woody should have been sentenced to one-year terms, served concurrently because he is a first-time offender.

"It's fairly clear for a person who hasn't previously served a prison term that the court must impose a minimum sentence, which would have been one year," Mr. Cimerman said.

Lorrain Croy, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor, acknowledged the Supreme Court decision Mr. Cimerman cited but said that case dealt with the state of Washington's sentencing structure. She said she'll argue that Ohio's sentencing laws are different and thus don't fall under that decision.

"It's my understanding that courts all over Ohio, courts of appeals, are considering whether the sentencing scheme is the same as in Washington, and some courts have said yes and some courts have said no," she said. "What we have to do is get it in front of the 6th District, because the 6th District has not ruled on it yet."

Ms. Croy said she'll defend the 19-year prison term for Woody as fair and acceptable under Ohio law, which sets a range of sentences for criminal cases.

"I don't think Judge Moon's ever had a problem going outside the statutory range," she said. "He's been upheld numerous times, because he stays within that statutory range."

During sentencing, Judge Moon said, "The shortest term would demean the seriousness of the offense," and a longer term was necessary because of the probability that Woody would commit future crimes.

"The court finds consecutive sentences are necessary to protect the public and punish the offender; are not disproportionate to the defendant's conduct and the danger he poses; and the harm caused is so great that a single term would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the conduct," the judge said.

The crash killed Darryl K. Scott, 44, of Detroit; his girlfriend, Shannon Scott, 24, of Romulus, Mich., and his niece Ariel Scott, 12, of Detroit. Sisters Alexis Howard, 9, of Eastpointe, Mich., and Alecia Howard, 7, of Eastpointe, both daughters of Mr. Scott, and Shannon Scott's niece, Amber Channey, 6, of Ypsilanti, Mich., also were killed.

Mr. Scott's daughter, Brandi Scott, 13, of Sterling Heights survived, but was hurt seriously. The victims were headed for Detroit after a day at Cedar Point amusement park when the crash occurred just before midnight.

Mr. Cimerman also said the judge was "mistaken" about the terms of Woody's sentencing. The judge conveyed the idea that Woody would have an opportunity for early release, but Mr. Cimerman called that "completely incorrect." "I'm confident it is going to come back," Mr. Cimerman said. "If the judge doesn't understand the impact of his own sentence, it is pretty clear it should be remanded for resentencing." Woody could have been sentenced to prison for 31 1/2 years if he received maximum, consecutive terms for the six felony counts he was convicted of in January. "We have the deaths of six people, and to put a three-year sentence on one person's death, that's not very much," Ms. Croy said. "We're not arguing it wasn't harsh enough, but if the family's satisfied, the prosecutor's office isn't going to gripe about it."

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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