LOCKPORT – Levi K. Dieterle, who was drunk last year when he crashed his pickup into a tree in Lockport, inflicting fatal injuries on his passenger, received a sentence Tuesday with a wide variety of punishments.
Dieterle, 22, of Burns Road, Medina, was taken to the Niagara County Jail immediately to begin serving a six-month sentence, which also counts as the first six months of a five-year probation term. State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. also fined Dieterle $5,000 and ruled that a restitution hearing will be held to determine how much he should pay the parents of the victim, Christopher W. Blake Jr., to cover unpaid medical expenses.
Blake, 21, of Elba, was left a quadriplegic after the Feb. 27, 2014, wreck on Lincoln Avenue in the Town of Lockport. He died Aug. 22 after being taken off life support in a spinal care center in Erie, Pa.
The victim’s father, Christopher W. Blake Sr. of Oakfield, told Kloch that he still owes almost $100,000 in medical bills.
The victim’s father said his son and a sheriff’s deputy said the younger Blake was wearing a seat belt at the time of the 1 a.m. crash, in which the truck struck a snowbank and a mailbox, flipped over and then crashed into a tree. Dieterle suffered minor injuries.
The elder Blake said whenever he asked his paralyzed son what really happened that morning, he would not discuss the matter.
The father told Kloch, “Any sentence you give today isn’t going to make me feel any better, or his mom, or his sister. Half our life is gone.”
He told a hushed courtroom that his son “always felt he was going to walk again someday.” But septic shock from the paralysis prevented that. On his final night, his heart stopped three times and he was revived by the medical team, but he remained in a coma.
“We had to make the decision to end it for him,” Blake Sr. said. “It’s the most terrible thing ever. I hope that never has to happen to anyone in this room.”
As for Dieterle, the father said, “I’m not saying he’s a bad kid. I don’t know him. I’m assuming he’s a good kid, because all of Chris’ friends were good.”
Dieterle said, “I know there’s nothing I can do or say to change any of this.” He read a short poem he had written about his friend’s death, called “The Best.” The last line was: “God broke our hearts to prove to us he only takes the best.”
Kloch warned Dieterle that if he violates any of the probation terms, he faces the maximum sentence of 2∑ to seven years in state prison.
Dieterle pleaded guilty Oct. 15 to second-degree vehicular manslaughter and a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated. At the time, he said he had consumed “four beers and a shot” before getting behind the wheel.
Since the plea, defense attorney Michael S. Taheri said, Dieterle has been volunteering at five or six local charities. Kloch added 400 hours of community service to the probation requirements. He also agreed to Dieterle’s request to become one of the panelists at the victim impact panel. Drunken drivers often are sentenced to attend the panel to hear about the harm done by DWI crashes.
Kloch also ordered Dieterle, after his release from jail, to obey a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on weekdays, and to stay home on weekends. Exceptions are overtime for work, counseling appointments and community service.