CASE RESULTS: CLIENT FACING A MAXIMUM PRISON TERM OF 32 YEARS RECEIVES 14 YEAR SENTENCE.
Motorcyclist Gets 14 years for Drunken Crash That Killed Passenger
February 2, 2011
By Bruce Vielmetti, Journal Sentinel
A 27-year-old Milwaukee man with four prior drunken driving convictions was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison for the high-speed motorcycle crash that killed his girlfriend last summer on the 27th Street Viaduct.
Sengthavanh Phengphonsavanh was a passenger behind Shaun Ackerman when the yellow Suzuki
600 he was driving slammed into the back of a pickup truck as both vehicles traveled north on N. 27th St. near
Ave. about 2:50 a.m. July 11. A witness estimated Ackerman was going at least 70 mph.
Phengphonsavanh, 29, was killed instantly. Ackerman was thrown into the bed of the pickup and suffered serious head injuries. The pickup driver was also injured.
A blood sample taken from Ackerman at the hospital about two hours later showed an alcohol concentration of 0.19, more than double the level considered evidence of intoxication.
Ackerman pleaded no contest in November to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle-second or subsequent offense, and injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
According to the criminal complaint, Ackerman had been convicted of drunken driving in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
At the sentencing hearing, his attorney, Craig Mastantuono, said Ackerman had finally begun to turn his troubled life around since he met Phengphonsavanh. He successfully completed probation from his fourth offense drunken driving, had steady employment as a roofer and was taking more responsibility since he and Phengphonsavanh had a daughter in 2007. They lived together with Phengphonsavanh’s parents and her three other children from a prior marriage.
That small success may have led Ackerman to conclude, wrongly, that he could drink socially, Mastantuono said.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Shomin said the couple had been out drinking that evening. Ackerman went home early but went to pick up his girlfriend when she couldn’t start her motorcycle. As they turned north onto the viaduct, Ackerman cracked the throttle on the speedy
“That the love of his life is gone at his hand is probably something I don’t think he’s ever going to get over,” Shomin said.
Ackerman tried to commit suicide in jail last month, Mastantuono told Circuit Judge Kevin Martens, but later came to the realization that was a selfish move and was now ready to live with his guilt and sorrow.
The victim’s father, speaking through an interpreter, said his family is falling apart over the crime. “I live in torment every day,” he said. “No one knows the hurt I’m feeling now.”
Another daughter and a son sat with their father, while another daughter sat with Ackerman’s sister, Jennifer Jones, on the other side of the courtroom. Jones and her husband have agreed to raise the couple’s little girl. The victim’s other children have gone to live with relatives in Colorado and Milwaukee.
Martens said Ackerman is a high risk to re-offend, with significant treatment needs, noting that even though he had “every reason and incentive to do otherwise, he still fell prey to the siren call of alcohol.”
In addition to the 14 years, Marten imposed 10 years of extended supervision when Ackerman is released. He also ordered a concurrent sentence of eight years in prison and four of extended supervision, for the count of injuring the pickup driver.
Ackerman made only a short, tearful statement to Martens:
“I loved her very much, and I’m so sorry.”