“Admitted drunken driver who caused fatal Oklahoma City crash gets probation” read the outrageous headline of a recent article. One more fatality and another convicted drunk driver gets probation despite killing one person and injuring two others.
One of his victims, Jenna Credico, suffered severe brain damage and will remain in assisted living for the rest of her life. The other, 18 year old Austin Thomas Williams is dead. Yet, District Judge Michele McElwee still gave probation. I can’t help but wonder if the criminal, yes criminal, would have received the same sentence if he had used any other weapon besides a car. Do you think if he knifed his victims they would have ordered probation? What if he used a gun to kill and injure?
Despite heartfelt pleas from the victim’s families and the prosecuting attorney requesting to hold the driver accountable and implement a 20-year prison sentence, District Judge Michele McElwee instead chose to believe the defense attorney argument that this defendant was “unusual” and this was just a “fluke.” The judge stopped short of giving the defendant a warm hug and telling him to be a good boy.
The driver, William Michael Houghtlin had a .19 BAC that is more than twice the legal limit yet his defense attorney called this a “fluke”. Statistics show that for every time someone gets caught driving drunk they have driven the same and not gotten caught at least 80 times before.
That is a lot of drinking and driving. What is even harder to believe is that the driver has been speaking to Victim Impact Panels and schools since his arrest several years ago and that impressed the judge. Good heavens! Why would anyone want a convicted drunk driver who was and is not being held accountable to speak to a group of convicted drunk drivers? I can well imagine a convicted drunk driver listening and thinking, “hey if I end up killing someone all I have to do is express remorse, and speak before a few panels and get the same judge and will just get probation. I can even throw in a few injuries and I am still good to go.” This may sound harsh but my question remains: What kind of deterrent is this?! The only message I see him delivering to young people is if you make the choice to drive drunk and cause someone’s death, you will not be held accountable.
In the We Save Lives video, Reflections From Inside, Chris, the convicted drunk driver, speaks movingly from a prison where he is incarcerated for 15 years after killing a police officer. This video has been shown more than 200 million times all over the world and we still get requests from other countries wanting to duplicate our efforts. We know by comments on this video that it is saving lives.
Do you honestly think William Michael Houghtlin will have the same impact? The only impact he will have is to let drunk drivers know how easy the system can be on the convicted impaired drivers and how frustrating and demoralizing it is for the victims and survivors of these crimes and tragedies.
District Judge Michele McElwee just informed every innocent victim of the crime of drunk driving that their lives do not matter and we should put the needs of the defendant first.
Her slap on the wrist to the defendant was a slap in the face to the families who suffered the horrific consequences of this driver’s deadly choice and to the law enforcement officers who arrested him.
We believe that Judge McElwee set the anti-impaired driving movement back 40 years and caused only more pain and grief to the to the families of Aaron Streetman and Jenny Credico.
Our hearts and sympathies go out to them not only for the tragedy that caused them so much pain but for the complete lack of justice they just experienced in Judge Michele McElwee’s courtroom.
Life is too precious to waste it on a cell phone conversation or a drink before driving.
Because we care . . . . .
President of WeSaveLives.org and founder of MADD