GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (From The Green Bay Press Gazette) -- A Green Bay man must spend 6.5 years in prison for driving his pickup into two contractors near Georgia-Pacific, killing one and injuring the other.
John R. Convery, 53, was sentenced Wednesday in Brown County Circuit Court for the July 21, 2015, death of Brian J. Delebreau, 56, of Oneida, and injury of Paul D. Price, 48, of Brussels. Convery was found guilty of negligent homicide and reckless driving that caused great bodily harm.
He initially faced charges of homicide and injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle, which would have exposed him to nearly five times as much prison. The charges were reduced as part of a plea agreement to reflect that Convery was not impaired at the time of the crash.
Delebreau and Price were employees of Hein Construction of De Pere, which had been doing contract work at the Georgia-Pacific plant on South Broadway. They were on break and had just the grounds at the time of the crash. Convery drove his pickup truck into the curb, then continued nearly 70 feet with his vehicle half on the road and half on the terrace before striking the two men, the criminal complaint says.
Convery told police he had dropped his cell phone and was picking it up when he drove up the curb, the complaint says. During a search of the vehicle, officers found bottles for oxycodone, gabapentin (used to treat neuropathic pain and anxiety) and diazepam (used for anxiety, light sedation and muscle spasms.) A blood test on the day of the crash found a number of prescription drugs in Convery's blood, but no alcohol.
It was Convery's second crash that day, court records say. About two hours earlier, he sideswiped another vehicle on State 172 near County GB, court records say. He was cited for unsafe lane deviation after that incident.
Impairment charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement, but Convery was definitely impaired, Brown County District Attorney David Lasee argued. The earlier crash indicates that, as did a report by a citizen who told police of seeing Convery weaving wildly on State 172, Lasee said.
After striking the men, Convery kept driving, half on the road, for another 200 feet. That also shows he was impaired, Lasee said. In any case, Convery was negligent in getting behind the wheel after having taken diazepam, a drug for which he had no prescription, Lasee said.
Any consideration of mitigating circumstances were taken into account by the reduction in charges, and Convery should get the maximum possible sentence, Lasee argued.
"It shouldn't matter whether it was alcohol, drugs or prescription medication -- he still made the choice to get behind the wheel," said Christine Smith, Delebreau's sister, who was one of four family members testifying Wednesday.
"I feel sorry for Mr. Convery's family," Smith said. "They'll have to be without their family member for a while -- but remember, you guys: We'll never have Brian back."
Defense lawyer Randall Petrouske argued for a year of jail time and a suspended prison term. He disagreed with Lasee that Convery was impaired. Although Convery drove his pickup half onto the terrace, the collision happened within less than a second of his leaving the road, Petrouske said. Convery had no prescription for diazepam but had been prescribed it in the past and had taken only one dose the night before, Petrouske said. Convery needed medication because of a host of physical ailments relating to his having had a liver transplant, Petrouske said.
In speaking to the court, Convery made no appeal for a reduced sentence but rather just apologized to Delebreau's family and to Price and Price's family. Price, who walked into court using a cane, did not speak to the court. About 30 people accompanied him and Smith into court. Delebreau's brother, Kenny, adult son, Riley, and nephew, Chad Smith, also spoke.
Brown County Circuit Judge Marc Hammer agreed with Lasee's arguments. He sentenced Convery to five years on Delebreau's death, 18 months on Price's injury and another 30 days for possession of a controlled substance.
Take our annual reader survey here