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South Dakota driver sentenced for 2007 vehicular homicide

ALEXANDRIA - A 41-year-old South Dakota man was sentenced Monday in Douglas County District Court for the crime of criminal vehicular homicide.

Thomas Patrick Michel was sentenced to 41 months (nearly three and a half years) in state prison. He will be eligible for supervised release in July 2011.

Michel was driving drunk when he crashed into a motorcycle on County Road 82, which led to the death of Earl Haugesag Jr. of Ashby.

In January, Michel pleaded guilty to the charge of criminal vehicular homicide, but asked the court to depart from the presumptive sentence and place him on probation instead of sending him to prison, according to the Douglas County attorney's office.

Judge David Battey denied Michel's request, stating that there were no "substantial and compelling" reasons to deviate from the presumptive prison sentence, said Chris Karpan, Douglas County attorney.

Prior to the sentencing, Michel agreed to meet with Haugesag's daughter at her request. The two met for 15 minutes in private, according to Karpan.

At the sentencing hearing, Michel's father, brother and cousin spoke on his behalf.

Haugesag's daughter, son and granddaughter told the court how losing their father and grandfather affected them.

Prior to Judge Battey announcing the sentencing, Michel read a statement apologizing to the Haugesag family.


The charges against Michel, who is from Webster, South Dakota, stem from a crash that eventually ended the life of Haugesag, 73, nearly two years ago.

According to the county attorney's office, Michel, who was driving a 2001 Ford Focus on May 12, 2007, made a left-hand turn in front of Haugesag, who was driving a 2005 Honda motorcycle on County Road 82.

Haugesag's motorcycle then collided with Michel's vehicle.

Michel was originally charged with a lesser degree of criminal vehicular operation, but after Haugesag died two and half months later as a result of his injuries, the charges were amended to criminal vehicular homicide.

At the plea hearing back in January, after Michel was sworn in, he admitted that he had been drinking beer and whiskey while fishing prior to driving and acknowledged that the results of his blood alcohol test, which showed an alcohol concentration of .15, were accurate, according to a report from the county attorney's office.

His alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

During the plea hearing, Michel stated that he never even saw the oncoming motorcycle, but agreed that the evidence showed he turned into the path of Haugesag, who, according to authorities, had the right of way.