A Saugerties man was sentenced to four to 12 years in state prison last week for a drunken driving accident that left two of his friends with devastating injuries.
County Court Judge Donald Williams handed down the sentence after family members of the victims read emotional statements about the impact of the Jan. 6 accident on Route 32 in Saugerties.
That day, police say, 35-year-old Tyler Kuhn picked up friends Kieshawn Blanche, 24, of Kingston and Brittany Ruskie and Justin Malloy, both 23, of Saugerties. The group drove to Catskill to do some work on a home owned by Kuhn’s family. Along the way they picked up a 12-pack of beer at a Stewart’s store. Around 11 a.m., the friends headed back to Saugerties to get lunch.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Mike Kavanagh said that Kuhn was drinking beer behind the wheel and driving at extremely high speed. Kavanagh said based on security camera footage from a business on Route 32, police believe that Kuhn’s vehicle was traveling at 110 mph just moments before the crash. According to Kavanagh, the accident occurred when Kuhn passed another vehicle on a blind turn, then swerved to avoid an oncoming car. Kuhn’s vehicle became airborne and struck a tree.
Ruskie and Malloy were ejected while Blanche was pinned inside the overturned car. Police later determined that Kuhn’s blood alcohol content was 0.10 percent, above New York’s 0.08 percent threshold for driving while intoxicated.
The crash left Ruskie and Blanche grievously injured. Ruskie, who was present in court at sentencing, was left paralyzed from the waist down. Blanche had his right leg amputated at the hip and has been hospitalized at Albany Medical Center since the accident. Kavanagh said that on the day of Kuhn’s sentencing, Blanche was undergoing surgery in an effort to save his right arm from a blood infection. Malloy suffered less serious injuries while Kuhn walked away from the crash with severe facial lacerations.
In May, Kuhn pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular assault and drunken driving. Kavanagh said prosecutors were prepared to go to trial and seek the maximum sentence — five to 15 years in state prison. Kavanagh said the office agreed to a plea deal and a lighter sentence to spare the victims’ the added trauma of a trial.
Inside the courtroom, Kuhn, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat crying with his head in his hands moments before the hearing began. During the hearing, Blanche’s sister read a victim’s impact statement on behalf of her family, while Kavanagh read statements from Ruskie, her mother and sister. In her statement Ruskie wrote about her struggles with everyday activities like brushing her teeth or taking off her shirt.
“You’ve caused me unbelievable pain and agony,” Ruskie wrote. “Ever since day one I have questioned why did this have to happen to me? The answer is, I’ll never know. You did this.”
Kuhn’s effort to apologize to his victims was cut short by Williams, who said he didn’t believe he was genuinely remorseful. Williams noted that in the immediate aftermath of the accident, Kuhn had lied to investigators, rather than accept responsibility for his actions.
“I don’t buy any of the stuff you said today,” said Williams. “None of it.”