‘No sentence can lessen their pain’

Gilbert man gets 9 years for fatal 2012 DUI crash

tflach@thestate.comAugust 5, 2013 

Billy Patrick Hutto Jr. is going to prison for up to nine years after pleading guilty Monday to drunken driving in a crash that killed a young girl in Lexington on New Year’s Day 2012.

Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper imposed the sentence after Hutto told 6-year-old Emma Longstreet’s family, “I wish I could have taken her place,” and promised to join their effort to keep intoxicated drivers off the road.

Emma’s family is “at peace” with the outcome even though the crash scarred them physically and mentally, said her uncle, Craig Brown.

“We went in knowing there would not be a winner, no happy ending,” said Brown, serving as family spokesman. “No sentence can lessen their pain.”

Hutto, 28, is going to prison for killing Emma and injuring her father, David, as their family was en route to church Jan. 1 last year.

His lawyer, Marion Moses, said Hutto made a poor choice to drive home to Gilbert after mistakenly believing a few hours’ rest meant he “slept off the night before” partying with friends.

The outcome followed an emotional re-enactment of the minutes following the crash by Emma’s mother, Karen, who got down on her knees in the courtroom to described what happened.

“There are no words human, strong enough, how it rips at your heart to bury your little child,” she said.

His daughter’s death has left her parents and three brothers with “a sense of hopelessness that still haunts us,” father David added.

Emma was a first-grader at Midway Elementary interested, her parents say, in French, soccer, gymnastics and arts and crafts. Her three brothers survived the accident without injury.

The reading on a blood-alcohol test given Hutto after the accident was 0.208, prosecutors said. A reading of 0.08 is considered a sign of intoxication in South Carolina.

Hutto faced separate charges of DUI in connection with Emma’s death and injuries suffered by her family and another motorist in the three-vehicle crash.

He told Cooper he will never drink alcoholic beverages again, saying he intends to counsel youngsters against that after leaving prison.

Hutto said sought help after pleading guilty to DUI in 2009 but was only partly successful in overcoming what he said is a problem handling alcohol.

Cooper sentenced Hutto to nine years in prison for felony DUI and 10 years for injuries to her father, calling it a balance between forgiveness and punishment. The sentences run simultaneously.

Hutto will serve less time after receiving credit for 18 months spent in county jail already. Parole is possible on the felony DUI charge after serving 85 percent — more than seven years — of the combined sentence, prosecutors said.

He also was fined $15,000.

The maximum penalty was 25 years in prison for felony DUI and 15 years for the other charge.

State crime victim advocate Laura Hudson called the punishment lenient. “I don’t think it was significant enough for (taking) a life,” she said.

The Longstreets turned their pain over the loss of a daughter into a crusade to keep more drunk drivers off the road.

Carrying photos of her, the couple lobbied state lawmakers to crack down harder on DUI through a proposal that supporters call Emma’s Law.

The measure would require more motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated — including some first-time offenders — to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

That equipment is a Breathalyzer that stops anyone from driving after consuming even a small amount of alcohol.

The measure is pending in the House after passing the Senate.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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