Choosing to be gracious rather than vindictive, Marci Tousey made a persuasive argument Friday to keep the man who killed her husband from serving time in jail.
“I know that Troy can’t live on in my heart if I’m angry or unforgiving,” Mrs. Tousey told Sheboygan County Circuit Judge Angela Sutkiewicz. “I want to move forward, and teach my children happiness can exist even when awful things happen.”
Sutkiewicz abided by the Tousey family wishes and decided against imposing a jail term on Roger Petersen, the 69-year-old retiree who drove into and killed Troy, as he biked with friends on County Highway Y north of Sheboygan on June 6, 2012. Jail time was the one lingering question at the emotional sentencing, after a plea agreement reached earlier ruled out a prison term.
Under the agreement, Petersen will be required to perform 100 hours of community service, much of it talking to senior citizens groups about the dangers of driving with a debilitating medical condition. The regretful Petersen has suffered from sleep apnea for more than 15 years, and speculated to authorities that he dozed off immediately before crashing into Tousey.
He apologized repeatedly to Marci Tousey and the others gathered in the courtroom, wiped tears from his face and said: “If I could trade places with him, I would do it in a second.”
It was a seconds’ lapse that killed Tousey, a 48-year-old father of twins, a business owner and generous spouse. And that fact played prominently in the arguments presented to Sutkiewicz and the scene in the courtroom.
Tousey’s widow and siblings and Petersen’s children and supporters all dabbed at tears, all experiencing grief for the tragedy that changed their lives. They sat on opposite sides of the aisle, but were closer together than they were divided, and showed no signs of anger; only sadness.
(Click here for pictures from the courtroom).
Tim Tousey, who wore one of his brother’s sweaters to court, to “keep him close,” expressed it best. His family lives a nightmare every day knowing their son is gone, and Petersen “rises each day with a sense of dread,” he told the judge.
The plea deal requiring the lessons to senior citizens originated with Marci Tousey, according to Dist. Atty. Joe DeCecco. Preventing another fatality, another grief-stricken family, was more important to her than vengeance.
Few people appreciate the power to kill when they get behind the wheel of car, DeCecco said. They turn on the radio and sink into their moving cocoon, and fail to maintain the adequate vigilance.
To highlight that point and force awareness, he charged Petersen with a felony, a rare action in cases of roadway crashes with no reckless conduct or drunken driving. That charge, homicide by negligent use of a vehicle, carried a 10-year prison sentence.
Petersen pleaded no contest to the charge, but the conviction will be held open and dismissed after a year, and his fulfillment of the community service. He was convicted on two misdemeanor counts for striking the two bicyclists riding with Tousey, and will pay a $600 fine on those charges.