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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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3/13/2013 10:00:00 PM
Hersum gets 14.5 years in DUI crash
Scott Orr
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Saying the witnesses called to testify on his behalf actually worked against him, a judge on Wednesday sentenced Daniel Wayne Hersum to 14.5 years in prison after he was convicted of charges relating to a head-on collision in which two women were injured on Highway 89A in May 2009.

Hersum, 64, was convicted of all charges, including aggravated assault, endangerment, criminal damage, and DUI, in November.

A jury found that his vehicle crossed the center median on the night of May 16, 2009, striking a pickup head-on and seriously injuring a 19-year-old woman, who was flown to a Phoenix hospital, according to a Department of Public Safety spokesman. A third car became involved, and that driver had minor injuries.

On Wednesday, Hersum's attorney, Ken Ray, referred to the nearly 30 people in the courtroom gallery, pointing out that they were there in support of Hersum.

He called six witnesses, each of whom described Hersum as a funny, giving man who had made a mistake the night of the collision.

His brother, Bill, said Hersum's business took a major financial hit when the economy faltered, and it continued to deteriorate. "His business went downhill, he lost accounts on his vending machine business," he said, adding, "There's heavy stress."

Bill described his brother having to sell off assets to survive, and said it had led to a temporary separation from his wife.

The stress was only compounded, he said, by the death of a close friend and the fact that Hersum had attended his funeral services just before the crash.

Hersum had a .241 blood-alcohol content at the time, according to law enforcement, which suggested drinking in-consistent with what his friends and family described.

Each witness said Hersum was not a drinker. His wife, Nancy, said, "In 10 years, I haven't seen him (drink)."

Deputy County At-torney Steve Sisneros asked how she could square that claim with the fact that, on the stand during the trial, Hersum described a history of alcohol abuse and said he was a "binge drinker."

"I didn't recognize the man on the stand," she replied. "I have never seen him out drinking, ever.

"His memory is jumbled," she said.

Close friend Karl Kern said, "This is a horrible accident. Danny has never said anything but how sorry he was about it. But life is life and things happen to people," he continued, adding that he had "seen a lot of people whose life changed in a single minute," referring to the victim.

"That's the same excuse Mr. Hersum is using - things happen," Sisneros said. "Mr. Hersum chose, not by accident, to drive that day. He chose to put himself behind that wheel."

Superior Court Judge Celé Hancock said, "There certainly is a large disconnect between the letters and what these (witnesses) said about Mr. Hersum and what he himself said at the (trial). I do not believe you are a bad person. But you were living a double life at the time," she went on, noting that "you were obviously hiding some of this because nobody here thinks you were a drinker, but you yourself told us in great detail" about the kinds and sizes of drinks he made himself.

Hancock expressed the most concern about a jury question: "When you were driving in the median, why didn't you stop?"

"I remember it as if it were yesterday, because you said, 'I was trying to get back on the road.'

"It would seem to this court, the first thing to do is stop," she said.

The victim "has dreams about how she wanted her life to be. You cut those short," Hancock said, and "the fact that nobody died in this crash is nothing short of a miracle."

She sentenced him to 14.5 years in prison.

While she discussed details with the attorneys, Hersum swiveled his chair and gave his family a small, sad smile before a detention officer turned the chair back.

Ray said he would file an appeal immediately.

As Hancock called the next case, Nancy Hersum looked up and said, "That's all? Is that it?"

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

How can any justice department that would hire neo-Nazis to watch over my kids be trusted. Think about it.

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Article comment by: Si Si Puede Total misuse of justice and completely unfair

This was the very definition of the word 'accident' and 14.5 years in prison is far too long for this simple and terrible mistake. There is no one dead, raped, robbed, or murdered. Killers, pedophiles, and drug dealers don't do this much time for intentional acts, and yet here is an average human being caught up in the same gears as real criminals for nothing more than terrible judgement.

The Criminal Justice System has become a system for dealing with 'Criminals' and heaven help when over the top 'Justice' comes to an ordinary citizen who cannot buy their way out of the mess.

Who will be next?

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Article comment by: Where's the Equality

Brad Fain gets all his charges dropped except for reckless driving. No extreme DUI, no criminal damage, no leaving the scene of an accident. This guy gets 14.5 years. Give me a break good ole boy deals goin on here. I can't believe it.....Got money got your freedom....

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Article comment by: stepdaughter hersum

This is my stepdad. Let me make one thing clear. I do not by any means condone drinking and driving. I believe what Daniel did was a mistake and every HUMAN makes mistakes. ... My issues are that I personally have not seen Daniel drink for many years and at that point in his life he chose to get behind the wheel resulting in a very unfortunate accident. I believe he deserves to spend some time in jail however 14.5 years(THE REST OF HIS LIFE BEING HE IS 65) is one of the harshest sentences I have yet to see. I am not aware of any other charges in Daniels past and if this Ollie up here knows so much why were the defense attorneys not pressing any of these issues in the court room?! That would be the first thing brought up if any of it was true. So basically he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison because a young women used the system to her advantage. ... I think a fair charge would have been 5 years because like most of you said , I personally had two friends die in an accident inflicted by a drunk driver and the man served 18 months. Before you are all so quick to judge take a look at yourselves, Im sure you are all far from perfect. And unfortunately Judge Hancock took away his priveleges of getting out early. He must serve 85% of his time which is 12yrs3mo. Definately a sad day for my family.

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013
Article comment by: Shea Leblanc

Sadly, he could have been manufacturing methamphetamine in a van and jumped out and smashed a brick in one of the women's faces, before forcing himself upon them, and gotten a lesser sentence. Superior court judges foam at the mouth when someone takes a case to trial around here. Land of the free?

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Only curious about options, I was not challenging you Alan. However my perspective on drink drive is skewed. Sorry if my disdain for the practise carried over.

The bold and italic business are HTML tags. These make it easier for me to speak naturally instead of @impersonally. Every now and again I muck up closing tags. Blessings to the moderator who corrects me.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

@The Rev

"What charge would you have pressed Alan?"

With a BAC that high, it would be Aggravated DUI today.

Just wait 'till YOU make a mistake, and the system comes at you full force. Be careful what you wish for, my friend.

P.S. How do you do that bold thing?

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Pandoli

The crime was committed in May 2009, it's now almost 4 years later and just now he's gone to trioal.
I'm sure his attorneys drug this out as long as they could. Maybe it's time the Victims get some say in postponing trials.
Maybe he should have postponed his drinking.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: At Alan Whitney

When you drink and you are impaired....THAT IS INTENT!!!

EVERYONE knows that drinking impairs driving. EVERYONE knows that said activity is against the law. And punishable with time in pen.

I will never feel sorry for anyone pulled over and convicted with a DUI. It's a simple arrest to avoid. Don't drink when you are going to drive. Period. If you can't hang out when you know you have to drive home without drinking, you likely have a problem. ...

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Silly Ness

So you don't 14.5 year is enough? What about the permenant issues the victims have? They have the rest of their lives to deal with his porr decision making. I for am glad the 14.5 years was handed down. This will set precedence for other people who make decisions and hurt innocent people.

It amazes me that people do not think about the affected lives of poor decision making. Yes his life is affected by his decisions. The lives of others were affected by HIS decisions. He should go to jail and spend a long time thinking about his issues and ways to make it right before he is judged by god.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: G. G.

14.5 years is excessive. But the fact that its his first offense, he will only serve 1/3 of that time through a first time offense program the prison system offers, pending good behavior. This is how they keep from overcrowding. So, no need to worry! He will be out in less than 5!
Dan is a good man and his wife would bend over backward to help someone she didnt even know.
Im not sure how everyone can critisize a family they dont even know. Dont EVER say you wouldnt do what it takes to hold onto someone as long as you could!! Those of you who call them "enablers", are hypocrites! You would do the same thing!.
Man is inherantly evil. There is only salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ! I pray that Dan and Nancy will use this time to grow closer to God.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Ollie Garcia

This is NOT the 1st DUI this man has had. I personally know of 3 others so I am sure this fact is why he got the harsh sentence he did. He was a hard core drinker for 30+ years that I know of.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Hamm's Beer Bear!

Someone should of called a cab for him!

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Go Judge Hancock!

Good Show, Judge Hancock. You are one of the few judges who take into consideration personal responsibility, damage caused, the victim(s), and punishment for intentional wrongdoing. This man may not have directly intended to harm anyone, but he did intend to drive severely drunk and thereby intended to ignore the potential consequences of his actions. That is the intent. The law does not call for absolute intent to harm, but is in force whenever someone harms either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, with recklessness here being the operative element. This man was intentionally reckless, with no reasonable concern for the consequences of his actions. Judge Hancock pointed out the hypocrisy of the testimony of his enabling witnesses, the damage done by his reckless behavior, and the the fact that he chose to act recklessly and thereby severely injuring another innocent person.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

What charge would you have pressed Alan?

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Common Senzi

Ironically, he would have gotten less time if he would have beaten the ladies with a baseball bat instead.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

I agree with many of you .The punishment is too excessive.There are so many things changing in our country on how we do things.Our judicial system is one that needs our attention. I challenge our community to sit in a court one for 1 week to see who we are sending to prison.Its hard to believe we give a judge so much power.I seen too many sent to prison thats a more harm to themselves than the community .We need to reevaulate our laws

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: To Carl: I do hope he nevers leaves prison!

He chose to drink and drive-it was his choice. He was a self admitted alcohol abuser. Prison will keep him off the road and keep him from killing my family and maybe even yours!

American's have not taken drunk driving seriously...until Judge Hancock. Thank you Judge Hancock, for issuing this sentence. Now maybe more people will respect the law.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Good Judge

An excellent decision by Judge Hancock and hopefully Mr.Hersum can use this time to deal with his alcoholism,his friends and family can go to Alanon.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Good Judge

Prescott is fortunate to have someone of Judge Hancock's caliber. She grew up here and
knows how common drug- and alcohol-impairment are in this community. They cannot be brushed away when life and property are endangered. Judge Hancock also is not intimidated by the local good-ole-boy judge/attorney network.

I have been in her courtroom and observed her knowledgeability and fairness. Let us hope she remains here and does not move on to
larger responsibility at state or federal level.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Native Prescottonian

This man is nothing but a drunk who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. It is only but by the Grace of God that those women survived, their lives have forever been damaged by his irresponsible drunkeness. The destruction he has done because he CHOOSE to drive while drunk. He has the right to destroy his life, but all the excuses in the world do not justify his actions. He deserves to spend the 14.5 years Judge Hancock and more.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

14.5 years seems harsh to me. I think you can rape a minor and get less. Sounds like when the chips were down he would go for the bottle. Just my 0.02.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Ted's Perspective

Remembering, in my early years riding with him from picnics in lakeside, to Christmas gathering were he bragged on the Prescott’s open rural nature, also the disconnected individual that did not want companionship or to acknowledge promises. Difficult, to let go of, but necessary...

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Erin Ewing

This man was my neighbor when I was a child... Believe me, he could DRINK. I always worried that his habit would come back to bite him one day. It is too bad that he made the choice he did... The sad part is, it has affected so many lives due to one man's bad judgement...

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by:

Yeah, I'm sure he's a barrel of laughs, especially after a few cocktails. Bet the victim doesn't think he's so funny. All of his support group is full of excuses, all of them enablers. Wife is the biggest enabler, willing to lie in court. He's a drunk, whether a secret drunk or not, who chose to operate a motor vehicle while blasted, with no regards to the outcome or the safety of others on the road. Unfortunately an innocent victim got in his way. He deserves to be locked away where he can do no more damage. Totally appropriate sentence.

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