The K-State student convicted of killing two people while driving drunk in May 2012 will not face prison time for involuntary manslaughter if he abides by probationary terms, a district judge ruled Monday.
Though Miles Theurer, 24, faced a possible prison sentence of 3 to 14 years for killing Michael Stanley, 31, and Elizabeth Young, 31, both of Ogden, in a head-on collision on K-18, Judge John Bosch granted the defense’s motion for a departure from the presumptive sentence during Theurer’s sentencing hearing on Monday.
In front of a packed courtroom, Bosch ruled that a 60-day jail sentence and a 36-month probationary period spent in house arrest would be appropriate for the veterinary student, who will be allowed to continue his schooling in the fall.
In his ruling, Judge Bosch admonished that Theurer “never touch a drop of alcohol again,” and said he wants the state of Kansas to know Theurer’s name.
In May, Theurer pleaded no contest to two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol. According to court testimony, his blood alcohol content level was twice the legal limit when he drove into the wrong lane of K-18 near the Manhattan Regional Airport in the early hours of May 14, 2012.
Although another motorist attempted to flag him down, Theurer, travelling with three other K-State vet students in his truck, struck the victims’ sedan head-on as the students were returning to Manhattan following a night of drinking at a strip club in Junction City.
Stanley and Young, both parents of young children, died on the scene.
In explaining his ruling, the judge cited Theurer’s extracurricular activities, his pursuit of a doctorate along with his veterinary degree and his belief that Theurer can warn other young people about the dangers of drunken driving through speeches at colleges, schools and churches across the nation. Theurer was ordered to speak at 36 locations.
“You are an exceptional person that I find to be in a typical case,” Bosch told him, echoing the defense’s argument that Theurer has led an admirable life otherwise.
In his own statement, Theurer apologized to the victims’ families, his own family and friends and to the judge, who also read for the court statements written by K-State professors, classmates and friends on behalf of Theurer.
The ruling has a 41-month underlying prison sentence should Theurer fail to abide by the judge’s probationary terms, which are that Theurer attend out-patient counseling, alcohol and drug classes and a victim-impact presentation. The judge also ruled that he must abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs and not have contact with the victims’ families.
Theurer is also subject to an ignition interlock device in his vehicle and portable alcohol monitoring.
Though Theurer, who stood close to lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray, appeared relieved with the reduced sentence, several members of the victims’ families were visibly upset. One engaged in an angry outburst after court adjourned.
The state, represented by Assistant County Attorney Wes Garrison, had requested that the court follow a sentence of approximately three years in prison, as recommended in the plea agreement, stating there was no need for a downward departure as Theurer’s lack of criminal history was already reflected in the sentence.
In emotional statements read to the court, family members expressed their desire for a prison sentence as justice for the victims.
“Our society must not tolerate drunk driving,” Stanley’s mother told the court.
She described how her son had plans to attend classes at the Manhattan Area Technical College before his life was cut short. At the time of their deaths, Stanley and Young were engaged to be married.
“The pain never gets easier to accept in my heart,” she said.
Another relative read a note written by Stanley to his daughter on behalf of the girl —who was present for the sentencing —in which he detailed his future plans with her, including camping trips and birthdays. In the note, he told her she has the prettiest face he’s ever seen.
Stanley would often, the relative said, write poems for his daughter.
Young’s daughter, a high school student, mourned the missed moments with her mother, writing that she’ll never be able to scan the crowd during color guard performances for her, or share in senior prom with her or hear her voice louder than everyone else’s as she graduates.
“She won’t get to be a part of my life as a mom, but as a memory,” she wrote.
Family members asked that Theurer serve time in prison to show, particularly for their children, that the lives of Stanley and Young mattered.
County Attorney Barry Wilkerson indicated Tuesday that his office filed a notice of appeal and will ask the appellate court to overturn the judge’s ruling, thus imposing the normal sentence.