CHAMBERSBURG >> Franklin County Judge Carol Van Horn sentenced Ricky Lynn Hatfield, 41, to between seven and 20 years in state prison Wednesday for causing a crash on Interstate 81 that severely injured two people.
Hatfield had pleaded no contest to two counts of aggravated assault by driving under the influence on April 30, and was present at Franklin County Courthouse Wednesday for his full sentencing.
Van Horn told Hatfield: "You became a weapon when you decided to drink that 12 ounces of peppermint schnapps while operating the trailer."
She said the only reason she was not sentencing him in the aggravated sentencing range was because after hearing all the victim's statements and evidence against him, Hatfield was accepting responsibility.
Hatfield will serve sentences for both charges consecutively. Restitution so far is listed as $314,681.21, but Assistant District Attorney Zachary Mills said there is about another half-million to be added from bills Medicaid did not cover, and future bills from the two men who are still recovering from the damage suffered in the crash.
According to court documents, on Nov. 19 Hatfield was driving a tractor trailer north near mile marker 13 on Interstate 81 when the rig struck two cars parked on the shoulder, where the victims had been trying to repair one of the vehicles. Hatfield did not say much before his sentencing, other than accepting responsibility and apologizing to the victim's families.
At beginning of the hearing, Hatfield tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his no contest plea. Hatfield also attempted to withdraw his plea last week, but Van Horn denied him. She told Hatfield Wednesday that she denied his first attempt because he did not have any legal basis. On Wednesday morning, he had a letter with him stating that he was a "living breathing man no subject to the laws of the land," Van Horn read. She later said that it did not make sense, legally.
Most of the hearing was filled with victim's statements from Isaac Espinoza and Francisco Ramos-Barcerra and their families.
Ramos-Barcerra's family spoke first, with his son, Francisco Ramos Jr., 10, saying that his life and his father's life had changed since the accident. "Now he can't do anything because he can't control his pain," he said.
Ramos-Barcerra's daughter Maria Ramos, 13, also spoke. "I don't wish anyone bad, I just wish whoever did this is punished fairly," she said.
Ramos-Barcerra made a statement through a lawyer, saying that he has been in pain every day since the accident, and that he has been unable to return to work. It frustrates him that he cannot support his family, he said. He also said that Hatfield is dangerous and should never drive again.
The Espinoza family spoke next, starting with Isaac Espinoza's middle daughter, Araceli. She said that her father was the one suffering, and asked that Van Horn do what she can to keep Hatfield from driving.
Espinoza's son, Joel Espinoza, 27, said the only hope they have for his father now is that he can get spinal surgery, which might aid in the current paralysis of his right arm and hand.
Isaac Espinoza gave his statement through a court translator.
"I just want to tell you that I prefer death than to have this arm hanging," Espinoza said. "When the accident happened, I didn't feel anything until I woke up two months later."
Espinoza had been in a medically induced coma for his injuries through the end of March. Espinoza said that whatever Van Horn ultimately sentenced Hatfield to was okay, because "there is another law in heaven. That saved my life."
As for Hatfield's license to drive, Van Horn is unable to take away his license, but instead referred the case to PennDOT, Espinoza's lawyer Phil Cosentino said. She said his license has to be dealt with by the state in which he is licensed.
Espinoza's family said that they were glad to hear Hatfield accept responsibility, and re-emphasized they believe he will answer to a higher power and that they wish no harm to him.
Hatfield was transported back to Franklin County Jail, and will be transported to a state correctional institution for the remainder of his sentence.
Staff writer Becky Metrick can be reached at (717) 262-4762.