Janesville man sentenced to eight years in prison for drunken driving death

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Jake Magee
Friday, September 15, 2017

JANESVILLE—A Janesville man sobbed in court Friday as he turned to face the family of the man he killed while driving drunk in a city park.

"I will make no excuses because there are no excuses to make," Michael Perry, 72, said before being sentenced in Rock County Court to eight years in prison and 10 years extended supervision.

Perry was drunk when he drove his pickup truck into Christopher Rabuck, 37, of Janesville on Nov. 10 in Janesville's Riverside Park. An hour after the incident, Perry had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.32, four times the legal limit.

Perry was a teacher for 30 years and volunteered for several organizations. The only blemish on his record was a drunken driving charge from October—one month before the fatal crash.

"He intentionally ignored the risks of drinking and driving and continued his behavior," District Attorney Dave O'Leary told the court.

"It's very, very unfortunate that was not your wake-up call," Judge John Wood said.

O'Leary pointed out Perry had every opportunity to seek help for his alcoholism. Perry was suspended from substitute teaching when concerns arose Perry had alcohol in his system while teaching. His daughter had even barred Perry from seeing his grandchildren until he stopped drinking, O'Leary said.

None of Rabuck's family members spoke during the sentencing, but two members of the family wrote letters expressing compassion and forgiveness toward Perry. Wood got choked up for a moment and called the family's display "incredible" and "impressive."

O'Leary requested Perry be sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years of extended supervision.

Defense attorney Philip Brehm noted Perry's impeccable history and positive impact on the community and requested probation with one year in the Rock County jail and 100 hours of community service for each year of probation.

"Ten years (in prison) would likely be a life sentence in his situation," Brehm said.

Wood said probation would "unduly depreciate" the seriousness of Perry's crime.

"Somebody died. There will be no more holidays, no more anniversaries. The effects on this family can't be overstated," Wood said.

Wood called the crime "horrific" but didn't divulge details of Rabuck's injuries so as not to upset the family. The crash was so violent Rabuck, a pedestrian struck by Rabuck's pickup truck, died instantly, Wood said.

"It's unfortunate we have to point that out as a silver lining," he said.

After striking Rabuck, Perry continued driving, causing extensive property damage. O'Leary said it's fortunate no one else was hurt.

"He's lucky to be alive," O'Leary said.

Brehm said Perry didn't decide to wildly speed through the park in disregard for others. Perry, who was so drunk he doesn't remember the incident, likely lost consciousness behind the wheel with his foot on the accelerator, Brehm said.

A sobbing Perry turned to face the Rabuck family and read aloud a written statement. He apologized and took full responsibility for a tragedy that has affected both his and a stranger's families.

Perry has 309 days of jail credit toward his sentence but isn't eligible for programs that could see him released early.

Perry's sentencing was postponed last month when Judge Michael Haakenson removed himself from the case after finding out Perry is related to a woman with whom Haakenson has dealings.

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