On June 12, 21015, Jason Hiscutt and his wife, Rose, spent the whole day out on their boat.
“The lake was smooth, the sun was shining,” Rose Hiscutt told a State Supreme Court justice on Tuesday morning.
Their lives, she said, were perfect – perfect until June 13, 2015, when Jason Hiscutt was run down by a man who later admitted he was drinking, on drugs and angry.
The Hiscutts did not know Eric L. Dragone before last June, but the courtroom was crowded with family and friends to see him sentenced Tuesday for his second-degree attempted murder conviction in the death of Jason Hiscutt, who was 44.
With a possible range of punishment of up to 25 years, Justice Russell P. Buscaglia sentenced Dragone to 22 years in prison.
“I never realized how hard it would be to be in the same room as my husband’s killer,” Rose Hiscutt said as she began her victim impact statement to the court.
She told how, on that day last June, she and her husband came home from the lake and watched TV before Jason Hiscutt told his wife she should take a nap before going to work that night. She had an overnight job.
As she went to lie down, she sat on her husband’s lap, gave him a hug and said, “You know I love you” – the last words he would hear her say.
Jason Hiscutt was asleep when Rose Hiscutt left for work, but she received a text from him at around 2:30 a.m. He told her he couldn’t sleep. A little while later he sent her another text, “143,” code for “I love you,” and then a few minutes later one more message: He was going to get a quick drink at a neighborhood tavern near Broadway and Bailey before she got home.
“Within 11 minutes of leaving our house my husband was dead,” Rose Hiscutt said.
Keeping her voice steady, she continued: “We were at the point of our lives where we were planning our future. We were living out our dream – and the light was so bright!
“Little did I know it was the killer’s headlights heading right into my husband.”
Jason Hiscutt was 44, with six children and four grandchildren.
Rose Hiscutt said she and her husband received their life sentence a year ago, and asked Buscaglia to consider that when deciding on a sentence for Dragone.
Assistant District Attorney Gary W. Hackbush, who prosecuted the case, said he had nothing to add to her statement.
Dragone previously admitted that he was deliberately reckless when he drove his truck into Hiscutt, but his attorney Daniel Grasso asked the judge to realize that Dragone was “not a monster. This was not premeditated.”
Grasso told how Dragone’s friend “got into a melee of sorts outside this bar. What happened was a combination of alcohol, bad judgment and drugs.”
What happened in fact was Dragone and his friend got in Dragone’s Honda Ridgeline truck, drove around the block a few times and then, just before 3 a.m., gunned the vehicle toward a group of people outside Rooftops Bar & Grill on Reiman Street. Hiscutt, 44, was just arriving and, separate from the others, was the only one hit.
Grasso said he didn’t believe Dragone even intended to hit the man his friend had argued with – that he was trying to scare the group and didn’t see Hiscutt coming.
“The Hiscutts and their family and loved ones don’t deserve to be sitting in this courtroom,” Grasso said. “This was not someone lying in wait looking to do someone harm.”
The judge also agreed that Dragone probably didn’t head out that night intended to harm anyone.
“On the other hand, you say that evening you had used drugs, and that evening you used alcohol, and there’s no excuse – and that’s right,” Buscaglia said.
Dragone, 26, who had health problems and survived cancer when he was younger, was addicted to pain killers but also was planning a life with his fiancee and two children he thought he never would be able to have, the judge continued.
“And yet you still voluntarily did drugs and used alcohol ‘to escape reality for periods of time,’” Buscaglia said. “I think my sentence is fair and just.”
Buscaglia earlier denied a request by the defense to delay sentencing so Dragone and his fiancee could get married in the Erie County Holding Center. If they still wish to do so, he said, they can marry in whatever state correctional facility houses him.