Defendant Had Eight Prior Alcohol Offenses
Joseph Jay Ford, the 27-year-old Kentwood man who stood trial last month for drunk driving and causing the deaths of two people, was sentenced on Wednesday, May 14, by Judge George Buth in the Kent County Circuit Court. The judge issued a sentence considerably more harsh than many expected.
Ford is convicted of driving drunk, running a red light, and slamming into the car carrying a young couple, Eric Fischer and Andrea Herrera, pushing it into the path of an oncoming semi-truck. The two died as a result of the injuries they sustained in the crash.
According to MSP tests performed at the crash site, Ford’s blood alcohol level that night was .087. When tested later by staff at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital it registered at .125. Forensic analysis also showed that Ford’s blood tested positive for amphetamines, morphine and promethazine.
Ford charged with two counts of reckless driving causing death
Ford was charged with two counts of drunk driving causing death, which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, or both. He was also charged with two counts of reckless driving causing death, which is also a felony and carries the same punishments, both in potential prison time served and in possible fines.
A jury found Ford guilty on both counts. In many other similar cases, people convicted of this crime have served five years or less, but Judge Buth handed down a sentence of 12 ½ to 30 years in prison. The judge said that, with regard to his decision to sentence at the top of the guideline recommendations, he considered the eight prior alcohol-related offenses on Ford’s record.
During the sentencing, Ford apparently told the judge, “I think about Eric and Andrea every day, from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed. I’m not a bad person. I am remorseful.”. However, afterwards members of both Fischer and Herrera’s family went on record saying that they didn’t believe he was really sorry, but was simply claiming to be sorry in order to sway the judge’s opinion.