NEW PORT RICHEY — Moved by the man's long battle with depression and drug abuse, a Pasco judge on Friday sentenced Joshua Fieger to eight years in prison for killing a teenage bicyclist nearly three years ago.
Fieger, 22, also will serve seven years of probation and his driver's license will be revoked for life. He had faced up to 15 years in prison for DUI manslaughter for the death of 19-year-old Justin Dawson.
Circuit Judge Michael Andrews heard extensive arguments and testimony the previous week from the prosecutor as well as Fieger's attorney, Clementine Conde. Andrews said on Friday he was convinced that Fieger had a drug problem and suffers from depression.
But he said Dawson's death still warranted prison time, as the bicyclist was in a "rightful and lawful place to be and you killed him," Andrews said.
Fieger, who tearfully expressed his pain and regret last week over the crash, showed little emotion and said nothing upon hearing his sentence.
Dawson was riding his Huffy bicycle south on Hicks Road near Bert Street, less than a half a mile from his home, when Fieger's truck slammed into him the evening of Dec. 9, 2009.
Testing of blood taken from Fieger at the scene showed he was under the influence of a cocktail of powerful prescription drugs including Oxycodone, Xanax, Valium and Nordiazepam.
Conde argued during a hearing last week for the minimum sentence of four years in prison. She noted her client has been diagnosed with a predisposition to drug dependency, has a history of drug abuse, and also suffers from depression. She said Fieger also fully cooperated with authorities at the scene and during the ensuing investigation.
Assistant State Attorney Vin Petty called for the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, arguing that Fieger's long history of arrests and failed drug rehab stints showed he was not amenable to drug treatment.
Dawson's family did not attend Friday's sentencing, but Fieger's mother, Melissa Coffey, was there. Tears welled up in her eyes as the judge announced her son's punishment.