"Despite the emotions involved in this matter, I'm bound to uphold the law," Akers told the courtroom audience after testimony ended in Wright's trial for class B misdemeanor reckless driving charges in Clay County. "If anyone doesn't like the ruling I'm about to announce, they need to contact the legislature."
Although Defense Attorney Edward McGlone argued Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kim Jackson failed to prove there was adequate evidence for a guilty verdict, Akers disagreed.
Wright was sentenced to the maximum the State of Indiana allows upon conviction, 180 days incarceration at the Clay County Justice Center (after completing any prior prison sentence) and a fine and court costs totaling $1,164.50 that may be pursued for collection by the Clay County Auditor's Office and the Clay County Commissioners upon his future release.
Wright, 19, Brazil, is currently serving seven years at the Indiana Department of Correction for a conviction of class B felony resisting law enforcement resulting in (a traffic accident causing) the death of his girlfriend, Brandee Siples, Nov. 17, 2007.
However, Wright was involved in a prior reckless driving incident in May 25, 2007.
On Tuesday, Clay County Sheriff's Department Reserve Deputy Chris Robinson testified that sometime around 3:20 p.m. that day, he clocked Wright driving eastbound at 62 mph in a 35 mph zone along Hendrix St.
After performing a traffic stop, Robinson let Wright look at the radar system in his patrol car when he disagreed with him.
"We walked back to the car and he looked at it," Robinson said. "He said, 'Yep, it's 62'."
Robinson said several factors, including school was letting out, rain had made the roads slick, the vehicle was traveling twice the legal speed limit and school buses would be in the area, were the reason he cited Wright with reckless driving.
Because Wright apparently had no criminal background at the time of the May 2007 incident, he was charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense. This made him a candidate for the pre-trial diversion program.
The program allows a person without a criminal background to have their misdemeanor case dismissed after fulfilling a formally negotiated and court approved legal agreement, thereby avoiding a conviction if the person doesn't get into trouble again.
In September 2007, a pre-trial diversion was negotiated and formally filed on Wright's behalf, but it was later revoked after officials learned about the November accident in Putnam County.
On July 16, Wright appeared in Clay Superior Court for the class D misdemeanor charge of reckless driving before Judge Akers, who refused to hear a discussion about a plea agreement that connected the two cases.
Akers said he could not order Wright's sentence to be concurrent or consecutive with the decision handed down by Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Mathew Headley on June 12 without a legal determination being made using case law.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor cited case law involving a similar pre-trial diversion case.
Jackson explained that because Wright was initially bound by the pre-trial diversion agreement before the accident in Putnam County, if convicted of the Clay County charge, Wright's sentence could be served consecutively.
However, McGlone asked the judge to take into consideration that five traffic infractions cited by the state are civil matters and not usually used against a person in court. He requested Akers to completely suspend any sentence issued by the court.
Akers disagreed and said Wright's prior driving behavior could have hurt himself or others.
As Wright was escorted back to the Clay County Justice Center, in the courtroom two families struggled with the loss of their loved ones. Wright's family shook their heads in grief and disbelief as Brandee Siples' family members held hands and fought back tears.
"It's hard, I know. Everyone says it will get easier with time, but it isn't," Pam Siples told The Brazil Times about dealing with the loss of her daughter. "At least they will get back birthdays and holidays some day. We get nothing back, never."