An Aiken man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to reckless homicide for his role in the collision last year that killed a 43-year-old woman and left her husband injured.
William Currie was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Doyet “Jack” Early to seven years in prison suspended to five years probation with credit for the 180 days he's already served. Currie's probation includes 400 hours of community service and drug and alcohol testing.
Currie's plea came just minutes before he was to stand trial on Tuesday morning for the death of Stacia Mock. Mock was killed after a collision at the intersection of Reynolds Pond Road and Pipeline Road about 11 p.m. on July 28, 2012. She was the passenger in a car with her husband Chris, who was driving east on Reynolds Pond Road when their vehicle was T-boned by a vehicle traveling north on Pipeline Road that ran a stop sign, causing the couple's vehicle to hit a tree, Assistant Solicitor Sam Grimes said on Tuesday. The Mocks' vehicle was traveling 46 mph in a 45 mph zone, while Currie was traveling about 60 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Currie was initially charged with two counts of felony DUI; however, toxicology later proved he was not under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, Grimes said.
Stacia Mock was pronounced dead on the scene.
The defense was prepared to argue that a tree was obstructing the stop sign at the intersection, according to defense attorney Everett Chandler. A state trooper who investigated the crash told the court on Tuesday that he could not see any obstruction at the scene; however, Chandler said a trooper told him the sign was obstructed, and that Currie likely would have seen the sign if he wasn't speeding.
“It's a horrible accident that left a hole in the hearts of a good family,” Chandler said. He asked for a suspended sentence, and noted that Currie had no prior criminal record.
Chris Mock carried a Bible to the front of the courtroom along with a piece of paper containing his statement.
“Stacia is my world,” he said. “We had plans and dreams we will never see come true. Part of the fun of having a dream is having someone to share it with. On July 28, 2012, my dream died. No, I physically did not die, but everything I lived for did.”
At one point, he lifted a fist to his mouth to hold back tears, his gold wedding band reflecting in the light.
Mock read aloud the definition of “prison” and asked why he felt as though he was in one. He said he was in a coma for six weeks after the accident, and suffered a stroke and a brain injury. He had to learn how to walk, talk, eat and swallow again.
“I didn't even know my wife had been buried, and could not have attended anyway,” he said.
Stacia Mock's father, Brancie Stephens, asked Early for the maximum sentence.
“Trying to determine what is an appropriate sentence in this type of case is one of the most difficult jobs I have as a judge,” Early said before rendering the verdict. “If this case were tried … from my experience of 30 years as a lawyer and nine years as a judge, I'm not sure which way this case would have gone.”
Early said the case was similar to another one he presided over two years ago, when he sentenced Daniel Johnson to 90 days in prison for the October 2010 crash that killed 37-year-old Martinez resident and Fort Gordon surgeon Maj. Matthew Burke. Burke was biking along with several other cyclists on Beech Island Avenue on Oct. 1, 2010, when they were struck by an SUV driven by Johnson. Alcohol nor drugs were involved in that incident. Johnson was charged with reckless homicide but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
“I try to be consistent with similar types of cases,” he said.
Stephens said afterward that “injustice” was done.
“The laws today don't have any teeth in them. That's the reason they're broken constantly,” he said outside the courtroom. “I'm very disappointed in the sentencing process. The only thing I know that'll help is to get the laws changed to mandatory sentences. I feel like an injustice has been done here.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.