Judge: No jail time for van driver in double-fatal drunken crash

Todd W. James

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A Huntington man who admitted to being drunk and behind the wheel of a passenger van that crashed in October, killing two people and hurting six more, will avoid prison.

Todd W. James, 52, was sentenced in Allen Superior Court on Friday to four years probation after Judge John Surbeck suspended a six-year sentence. James pleaded guilty in December to two felony counts of Causing Death When Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated, both related to the Oct. 1 crash along S.R. 1 that killed 21-year-old Harvey M. Schwartz and 17-year-old Louis E. Schwartz, both of South Whitley.

It was around 2 a.m. that morning that police and medics were called to the 14000 block of S.R. 1 near Amstutz Road in Leo. There, a Ford passenger van with 16 people inside, including nine juveniles, went off the road and hit a tree.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Allen Superior Court, James was the driver of the van. Investigating officers noticed a “moderate to strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” on him, and noted his eyes were “watery and bloodshot,” the affidavit said.

A blood sample taken at a local hospital showed James had a blood alcohol content of 0.13 percent, the affidavit said.

James had faced a sentence of 4-12 years, according to Indiana Code sentencing guidelines, but the family of the victims asked the court to show leniency on him.

The judge ordered his license be suspended for five years.