LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It's one of the highest blood alcohol levels the judge and prosecutors have ever seen, and its impact is just as high. The man who drove drunk and caused a string of crashes in 2009 faced a judge for an emotional sentencing Thursday morning.
John Brown, 45, had a blood alcohol content level of .431 when he went on a destructive drive in late 2009. He ironically was headed to a DUI Diversion Class, but drove with an alcohol level more than five times the legal limit.
"I wish I could take it back," Brown said during the sentencing hearing. "Every day I pray it was the other way around and that Mr. Smith was still alive and I was dead."
The irony doesn't stop there. Brown slammed into 29-year-old Scott Smith's vehicle and killed him on December 7, 2009 - a day that always had been a time of celebration for the Smith family.
"It is my birthday," said Scott Smith's mom, Francis. "What was once a day of celebration will now forever be engraved in my mind as a day of extreme sorrow. Instead of that being a day of what I gained in life, I will forever be reminded of what has been taken away from me."
Francis Smith sat heartbroken and emotional during the sentencing, clutching her son's photo and saying she's haunted daily by the crash.
"Did Scott feel any pain? Did he cry out for me as he felt the impact of the accident? Did he see John Brown's face as the truck slammed into his car? Does he know how hard we tried to save him," an emotional Smith said regarding the unanswered questions and thoughts she still has to this day.
John Brown's mother and brother both begged for forgiveness while offering apologies to the Smith family.
"He's a wonderful child. I cry every night for him. He's a good boy," Brown's mom said.
"He's not a bad person. He's a father, he's a son, he was getting ready to retire," John Smith's brother Shaun said.
A psychiatrist testified that Brown suffered from a combination of alcohol dependence and schitzo affective disorder.
That, coupled with a prior DUI conviction and his staggering blood alcohol level stacked the cards against Brown; not to mention he hit a mail truck just minutes before the crash that killed Smith.
"Mr. Brown had to restart his vehicle and that was a perfect time right there to say I'm in no shape to be driving and to stop, and Mr. Smith would never have come into contact with Mr. Brown, but that was choice was never made," Division 12 Judge Susan Schultz Gibson said.
In the end, Judge Gibson sentenced Brown to 14 years, while the healing continues for both families.