LOCKPORT – Frederick J. Lederhouse, the man with Parkinson’s disease who killed two other drivers in a March 27 wreck in Wilson, was sentenced Wednesday to five years on probation and fines and fees totaling $5,520.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., who could have sent Lederhouse to prison for up to eight years, chose not to do so. Niagara County prosecutors recommended probation when Lederhouse pleaded guilty Nov. 20 to two counts of criminally negligent homicide.
Lederhouse, 61, of Youngstown Road, Porter, was at the wheel of a pickup truck that was traveling 86 mph, according to the onboard black box, when it rear-ended a car driven by Cathy World, 58, of Wilson, on Wilson-Burt Road. The impact rolled World’s car into a ditch, and she was killed.
Lederhouse’s truck continued forward. It swerved off the road for a moment, but Lederhouse pulled it back onto the pavement just in time to crash into an oncoming car driven by Ronald Zauner, 69, of Wilson, who also was killed.
Zauner’s widow, Judy Zauner, said she was “very pleased” with the sentence.
“That’s what I asked for,” she said. “I’m sure it was medical … [Lederhouse] has suffered enough.”
Lederhouse’s driver’s license was suspended by the state Department of Motor Vehicles after a minor accident in December 2012.
Lederhouse’s doctor signed a letter in 2013 stating that it was safe for him to drive again, and the license was restored. Defense attorney Joel L. Daniels said he didn’t know the name of the doctor. The license was suspended again after the fatal crashes.
Kloch said, “The real sin, the real error, the real crime here is him being given a license again.”
Kloch barred Lederhouse from driving as a condition of probation.
Walter E. Moxham, a Lockport attorney representing the World family, said death settlements already have been paid by Lederhouse’s insurance company.
As for suing the doctor who let Lederhouse back on the road, Moxham said, “It’s still under consideration. It’s doubtful anything will come of it.”
“It’s not contemplated,” said Christopher J. O’Brien, attorney for the Zauner family. “Judy Zauner has forgiven Mr. Lederhouse and has made peace with this. She’s a remarkable, remarkable woman, and she’s moving on.”
Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell declined comment on the sentence.
In court, she noted that the some of the victims’ relatives thought something stronger than probation was required.
Caldwell told Kloch, “I hope you honor the families and Mr. Zauner and Ms. World by making sure Mr. Lederhouse is never able to drive a car again.”
Tests after the wreck, which occurred at about 4 p.m., showed a high level of the drug Xanax in Lederhouse’s bloodstream. He takes the drug to alleviate the shaking associated with Parkinson’s disease, according to Daniels.
Lederhouse walked with a shuffling gait and spoke in a slurred voice, which Daniels attributed to the medical conditions.
Lederhouse said, “This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. I think about it every day ... I never intend to drive again.”
Daniels said that besides Parkinson’s, Lederhouse suffers from insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes, cerebrovascular disease and water on the brain.
“They’re all documented. They’re unchallenged,” Daniels said.
He said Lederhouse’s blood sugar level was high after the fatal crashes, and the defense attorney said an endocrinologist told him high sugar levels made Lederhouse more vulnerable to ministrokes.
“You lose consciousness for moments and you have no control over what’s happening,” Daniels said.
“It’s clear that old age, health reasons, inferior workings of the mind, caused that tragedy to occur,” Kloch said.
The judge noted that Lederhouse lives alone in a remote farmhouse. “If I were mean-spirited, I would wish you a long life alone in that farmhouse, thinking about what happened,” Kloch said.