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Man to get 3 years in DUI death of soldier

BROOKSVILLE — The generosity of a victim's family will spare a Bushnell man from a lengthy prison sentence.

Rickey Scroggins Jr., 23, drove drunk, ran a red light and collided with a freight truck in 2007, killing passenger Andrew "Andy" Cuthbertson, a newly engaged Army private who had arrived home on leave just a day before.

Scroggins pleaded no contest Thursday to DUI manslaughter and four related charges.

Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing delayed sentencing Scroggins until Sept. 12 so Cuthbertson's relatives could attend. As part of the plea deal, Scroggins will receive three years in prison followed by two years of house arrest and five years of probation.

The crash happened about 5 a.m. April 27, 2007, at Powell Road and U.S. 41, south of Brooksville. Scroggins drove his 1994 Chevrolet pickup with three passengers: his girlfriend, her friend and her friend's fiance, Cuthbertson.

The crew spent the night reconnecting and drinking before heading home. Scroggins stopped at the traffic light at the intersection but then drove through the red light and across the six-lane divided highway. A mail freight truck in the northbound lanes of U.S. 41 slammed into the left side of the pickup where Cuthbertson, 19, was sitting. He died at the scene. Scroggins later registered a 0.96 percent blood-alcohol level.

Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto said Scroggins faced a much harsher sentence — more than 15 years in prison on all of the charges — but the victim's family agreed to show mercy with a lesser prison term.

Cuthbertson's mother, Laurie Martinez, said Thursday she was satisfied with the outcome "because it gives him plenty of time to think about what happened." She said Scroggins came and apologized to her after the crash.

"I knew (a longer sentence) isn't going to bring my son back," she explained. "I don't feel like taking all that time from his life.

"I want some consequences," she continued. "And we left it in God's hands, and he will deal with it in his way. … I pray and hope he will learn from this."

In court, Scroggins' attorney, Chip Mander, challenged the evidence in the case, asking the judge to suppress his client's confession for a number of reasons, including the fact it was obtained at the hospital while he was in shock and badly injured.

The judge denied the motion, but Scroggins waived his right to appeal as a part of the plea negotiations.

"Nobody is happy," Mander said. "It was just bad all around."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

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Man to get 3 years in DUI death of soldier 09/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 11:21am]
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