Man Sentenced to Prison by Fired Former Judge Has Sentence Reduced

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On August 13, Bidemi Ajobiewe, a Nigerian national who had been given six years in prison for an fatal accident on I-74 had his sentence reduced from six years in prison to 24 months of parole and time already served. Mr. Ajobiewe has spent six months in the county jail waiting for this reconsideration of his sentencing.

I have previously written two articles in the Public i about the exceedingly harsh sentences handed down by Judge Richard Klaus in the DUI court before he was recently dismissed from the court by superior judges. One of the cases I have dealt with in those articles is that of Mr. Ajobiewe.

The agreement that he accepted consisted of his pleading guilty to reckless homicide. He was driving a furniture delivery truck on I-74. The road was slick and his truck skidded on the ice, sending it into the oncoming lane. There was a head-on collision in which the other driver was killed. When he was tested after the crash, there were traces of marijuana in his system. He admitted that he had smoked marijuana, but that it was a week or more before the accident. It was on the basis of those marijuana traces, or metabolites, that Judge Klaus gave him the six years in prison. In the new plea agreement, Mr. Ajobiewe had to admit driving without a commercial driver’s license and too fast for road conditions. While these matters were not raised in this court session, it would seem to be significant that Mr. Ajobiewe comes from a country where there is no snow or ice, and that his employer should have seen to it that he had a commercial license before putting him behind the wheel of the truck.

There were two other factors worthy of note in this new court proceeding. The sister of the deceased driver gave an impact statement supportive of Mr. Ajobiewe. She said that while she had initially been very hurt and angry, she now realized that it was an accident; that he did not mean to harm anyone; and that he was just trying to make a living. She accepted his apology and forgave him, and said that she knew her deceased sister would forgive him and would want her to forgive him as well. She and Mrs. Ajobiewe were both crying and embraced each other as they left the courtroom. It was the most touching scene I have ever witnessed in a courtroom.

The second factor was that the marijuana traces were subjected to further lab testing and were found to be totally inactive. From that Judge Difanis drew the conclusion that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the accident. And he, in a admittedly uncharacteristic move after a proceeding’s conclusion, went on to comment from the bench that the present marijuana statutes do not make any sense and that the legislature will have to come to the realization that people like marijuana.

It should be noted that there have since been modifications in the law, which stipulate that there has to be a certain level of activity of the marijuana metabolites, or THC, before it can be assumed to be a factor in an accident. But they have not yet gone into effect.

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