By CHRIS COLLINS
A Halfway man found guilty last month of driving drunk and causing a wreck that killed two men in November 2005 will spend the next seven years and three months in prison.
Anthony J. DelCurto, 51, was sentenced Wednesday in Baker County Circuit Court by Judge Russ West. He was convicted on Oct. 13 of two counts of second-degree manslaughter, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Gerald Arant, 67, of Klamath Falls and his son, Mark Arant, 42, of Ontario, died in the crash.
Second-degree manslaughter carries a mandatory minimum 75-month sentence. The state had asked West to sentence DelCurto to two consecutive 75-month prison terms.
Instead, the judge included a 36-month sentence for each count of criminally negligent homicide, with 12 months to be served consecutive to the 75-month mandatory minimum, for a total of 87 months in prison.
DelCurto can qualify for a reduction of the 12-month sentence based on good behavior in prison, said District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff. West will recommend that DelCurto be transferred to the Powder River Correctional Facility at Baker City as he nears the end of his sentence, in order for him to have access to treatment.
Shirtcliff said afterward that he was satisfied with the overall result.
andquot;I'm glad the judge ran at least part of the sentence consecutive because it recognized that there were two deaths,andquot; he said. andquot;And I also think that treatment was appropriate at the end of the sentence. I think justice was done in this case.andquot;
For the DUII conviction, West sentenced DelCurto to one year in jail with no probation, to run concurrently with the other sentences.
DelCurto also was ordered to pay $5,864 in restitution to cover funeral expenses for the two men and $2,862 in court fees. He was fined $1,000 for the DUII conviction. The judge suspended a $100,000 fine levied in connection with the manslaughter charge. DelCurto will be placed on three year's post-prison supervision upon completion of his prison term.
The manslaughter convictions also carry a lifetime suspension of his driver's license.
andquot;If you get caught driving you can figure you'll spend a year in jail,andquot; West said. andquot;If you're out driving, word is going to get around, and you're going to be arrested.andquot;
In response to questions from the judge, DelCurto agreed that he would benefit from alcohol treatment and that he should never take another drink.
DelCurto admitted to having drunk nearly a dozen beers between daylight and 11 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2005. The jury found that he was impaired by alcohol and drifted across the center line as Gerald Arant attempted to pass him about 2:30 that afternoon.
DelCurto was turning into a field to collect cows that had wandered from his property when the crash happened. He had been charged with DUII on Oct. 12, 2000, and entered a diversion plea in that case.
Oregon State Police Trooper Huff Meyer, who since has been transferred to Albany, testified by telephone Wednesday that DelCurto was driving the same Dodge pickup truck involved in the Arant wreck that October afternoon 2000, returning a cow to the pasture when the trooper arrested him.
As part of a diversion agreement in that case, DelCurto completed a six-week educational program and the charge was dismissed.
West expressed concern that DelCurto failed to learn from that experience.
andquot;It appears to me that you're an alcoholic that never got dealt with six years ago,andquot; he said.
West chastised DelCurto for the driving behavior that led to the double fatality.
andquot;You were multi-tasking at the time the crash occurred,andquot; he said.
West noted that in addition to driving and looking for cows, DelCurto was performing an additional task:
andquot;A task that's illegal you were drinking beer,andquot; West said. andquot;It's not an accident, it's a wreck ... you were out to lunch.andquot;
West said it didn't matter whether DelCurto signalled before turning in front of the Arants, a point of debate during the trial.
andquot;You cannot signal and make a turn when somebody's passing you,andquot; West said. andquot;Mr. Arant made a judgment call. It was reasonable under the circumstances.andquot;
DelCurto's attorney Wes Williams of La Grande had argued that Arant was driving too fast considering the weight of the loaded horse trailer he was pulling and that he failed to respond to DelCurto's turn signal when he decided to pass him.
West, who also presided during the trial, disagreed.
andquot;You had a duty to stop and let him pass,andquot; he said. andquot;Either you didn't look or you looked and didn't see because of the alcohol and so you turned.
andquot;You caused this wreck and it was totally preventable,andquot; West said. andquot;Both of these men paid for it with their lives.andquot;