After Millcreek resident, Joseph Bartone, was sentenced to just three days in prison for the fatal accident death of Charles Rodstrom in October 2015, the district attorney’s office is explaining the seemingly lenient sentence.
“From our evidentiary standpoint, what we were lacking was the part of the statute that would tie in the marijuana with being impaired,” said Erie County District Attorney, Jack Daneri. “We didn’t have that, so we didn’t have any homicide by motor vehicle while DUI. Witnesses said that this individual was not driving erratically, he drove up to the stoplight…he stopped at the red light.”
Daneri said Bartone’s Pontiac Vibe struck and killed Rodstrom while he and another pedestrian were walking on Peach Street just south of Kuntz Road October 10 of last year. The other pedestrian was hit as well but did survive. Blood was taken from Bartone shortly after the accident and it was determined that trace amounts of THC were in his system.
An expert from NMS Labs in Philadelphia determined that the trace amount of THC in Bartone’s system was not enough to conclude Bartone was impaired.
“We did not have sufficient evidence to show that any amount of the marijuana in his system caused him to go off the road,” said Daneri.
Since Bartone was not impaired, and thus homicide charges were not appropriate, a DUI charge along with a careless driving charge were filed against him. He plead guilty to both in court Wednesday and was sentenced to three days in jail, 30 days of work release, two months of electronic monitoring and one year probation.
Daneri said while that may seem lenient for an incident that took someone’s life, this is not a homicide case, but rather a DUI one. He said for first offenders of DUI, like Bartone, the lawful penalty is just probation, but the judge ruled the accident was aggravating enough to give Bartone a more strict sentence.
“Judge Brabender actually went into borderline aggravated range of the sentencing guidelines by giving [Bartone] any jail time,” said Daneri. “The judge actually imposed a stiffer sentence in this case for a first time DUI offender then anyone typically gets.”
Daneri said although Bartone’s carelessness resulted in a death, their medical experts had to find within a reasonable degree of medical certainty if the suspect was driving impaired.
“Here is the $64,000 question: ‘can you say he was impaired?’ And she said ‘no I cannot’,” said Daneri.
Bartone claimed that some sort of asthma or sneezing attack occurred seconds before the fatal accident, resulting in him blacking out and hitting Rodstrom along with the other pedestrian.
Daneri said while that might be true, their investigation was unable to disprove whether a sneezing or asthma fit took place.