Man who struck family in Grand Lake Fourth of July highway accident sentenced to one year in jail
July 10, 2014
Lucas Ackerman has received a one-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to a second DUI offense in relation to the July 4, 2013, accident that left one man dead and four others injured.
The 14th District Court Judge Mary Hoak also sentenced Ackerman to two years of supervised probation with an additional suspended sentence of one year.
"There is nothing I can do here to replace Greg Westley," said Hoak before sentencing on July 10. "There is nothing I can do here to make things better."
Hoak gave Ackerman the maximum sentence for a second DUI offense.
Westley's widow, Debbie Westley, and his parents, Bill and Connie Westley, spoke in what was ultimately a very emotional arraignment hearing.
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Last month, the 14th District Attorney Brett Barkey announced he would move to dismiss all four felony counts against Ackerman, including the charge of vehicular manslaughter, after a report by the Colorado State Patrol stated that the accident would have been unavoidable even if Ackerman had been sober.
During the arraignment hearing, Westley's parents and wife spoke out against the district attorney's move to dismiss the charges.
"We are not satisfied with the actions of District Attorney Barkey and his staff in handling the case," said father Bill Westley.
Mr. Westley's emotion was palpable as he criticized the district attorney's decision to drop the charges.
"Mr Barkey, what you have proposed is an insult to our son, his wife and his children," he said as he fought back tears. "It minimizes the value of life. Furthermore, it's an insult to the people of Grand County and the State of Colorado. We strongly believe that you should reconsider your proposal and do what is right."
Debbie Westley also gave her first public comments since the incident. She clutched what appeared to be a small cross in her hand as she spoke, often pausing to compose herself.
"There will never be another embrace, kiss or wink from across the room," Mrs. Westley said. "He will no longer take my hand or sit with me in silence. There is no future together to dream about. I won't hear his joyful laugh or tender words. I will carry emptiness in a corner of my soul forever."
At one point during Mrs. Westley's discourse, Ackerman himself appeared to become emotional.
In light of the dismissal of felony charges, the Westleys asked for the maximum sentence for the DUI charge.
Hoak stated that she couldn't influence the district attorney's decision to dismiss the felony charges.
"We don't all agree, but we all do our best, and I echo Mr. Ng about what a horrible case this has been for so many reasons," Hoak said. "It has been a very difficult case, more difficult even than usual."
Ackerman was remanded to the Grand County Sheriff's office to serve the remaining 360 days of his sentence, though it is possible that Ackerman will not serve the full year.
The court will allow the district attorney's office 90 days to determine the amount of restitution it will seek for Westley's family, though 14th District Assistant District Attorney Han Ng speculated the amount would be between $500,000 and $1 million.
Ackerman did not speak at any length during the arraignment, only giving yes and no answers to Hoak's questions.
Hoak remanded two additional charges of child abuse to county court. Those charges are in relation to Ackerman's own children, who were with him and his wife in the truck during the incident. They will be heard at 11 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2014.
Ackerman's Ford pickup truck struck Westley, of Estes Park, Westley's wife and injured three of Westley's eight children that July 4 night. It has been determined the family had been crossing the road at the time of impact.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.