April 05, 2020

Man sentenced in fatal car crash

BANGOR – A Passadumkeag man was sentenced Friday in Penobscot County Superior Court to 15 months in jail on charges stemming from a 2004 car accident that killed his former girlfriend and left a Lincoln man disabled.

Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar sentenced William F. Tash IV, 25, to nine months in jail for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, and five years with all but six months suspended for criminal drunken driving, a felony. The sentences are to be served consecutively at Penobscot County Jail.

The judge also sentenced Tash to perform 200 hours of community service after his release and ordered him to pay nearly $15,000 in restitution to victims.

Tash agreed earlier this year to plead guilty to criminal drunken driving in connection with the Dec. 26, 2004, crash that left Ashlee Dunn, 21, of Howland dead and severely injured Pedro Quintella, 43, of Lincoln.

“These kinds of cases are always tough,” Jabar said in handing down the sentence. “It’s always hard for the families of the victims to understand why the defendant didn’t get the maximum sentence. The emotional response is to lock him up and throw away the key.

“This is not a manslaughter case,” the judge continued. “It has the feel of that, but what was charged is below that. There also is no intentional conduct here. It was reckless, but not intentional.”

In August, after hearing emotional testimony from the victims’ families, Jabar rejected a plea agreement that would have sent Tash to jail for just six months on the drunken driving charge.

Patrick Larson, the former assistant district attorney for Penobscot County who prosecuted the case, and defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor agreed to add the criminal mischief charge for the damage done to the house struck by Tash’s truck. Tash pleaded guilty Friday to that charge.

Larson told Jabar on Friday that the families of the victims had reviewed the plea agreement and found it acceptable.

“No matter what sentence you impose, it will not be enough,” Dunn’s aunt Earlene Young, 51, of Lincoln told the court. “But, perhaps, [the imposition of sentence] will bring some relief and closure. … [Tash] has held our family as emotional hostages for months.”

Karen L. Pelkey, 47, of Passadumkeag described Tash as “a good kid,” who had been her neighbor for a decade.

Tash apologized to the family and friends of the victims before nearly breaking down as he talked about his former girlfriend.

“I loved Ashlee more than anything,” he told Jabar, “and I am truly sorry for everything that happened.”

Tash did not address the court at his first sentencing hearing. The victims’ families told Jabar in August that Tash had not apologized for his part in the accident and they urged the judge to sentence him to five years in prison.

Tash, whose blood alcohol level was 0.08 percent 90 minutes after the accident, according to Larson, initially denied that he had been driving the car. He told police that Dunn had been driving and that he allegedly fled to Florida to avoid prosecution when he was about to be indicted a year after the accident. The state’s legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08 percent.

Tash was arrested in late December in Florida after he missed his arraignment.

Dunn was a passenger in Tash’s 1990 Nissan pickup truck when Tash rear-ended a 1997 Toyota pickup truck as he headed west on U.S. Route 2 in Enfield.

Quintella, who was on his way to his job as a facilities supervisor when the crash occurred, was driving the other vehicle. He suffered permanent brain damage and is unable to work.

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