Victims' friends criticize sentence
A car crash victim called the driver who caused the crash 'an evil man.'
By AMANDA GARRETT
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CHARDON -- A sentence of 38 years in prison for a man repeatedly convicted of drunken driving is too little, too late, say friends and classmates of a young Champion Township man he killed.
"It's a good feeling to know that he will be locked up, and he won't be able to drive anymore," said Hiram College senior Emily Clark of Canton, a friend of the two Hiram students who died as a result of the crash last March. "But it still doesn't change the fact that he was allowed to get off so many times."
Clark said she and her friends are working to honor Andrew Hopkins, 18, of Champion, and Grace Chamberlain, 18, of Kirtland, by ensuring that driving under the influence convictions come with stiffer penalties. The group, which includes Chamberlain's sorority sisters, plans to lobby lawmakers in Columbus to increase jail time for those convicted of drunken driving.
James D. Cline, 48, of Burton, had been convicted of DUI 11 times before he struck a car carrying Hopkins, Chamberlain and fellow Hiram student Evan C. DaSilva, 19, of North Kingston, R.I., on a snowy evening.
Judge David L. Fuhry of Geauga County Common Pleas Court sentenced Cline on Wednesday to the maximum -- 38 years -- on five counts: aggravated vehicular assault, DUI, failure to comply with a police order and two of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Cline will serve the sentences consecutively instead of concurrently because he is a danger to the public and he has shown no remorse for his crimes, Judge Fuhry said.
Judge Fuhry allowed the parents of Hopkins and Chamberlain to speak before sentencing.
The Rev. Ken Hopkins said the March 2 crash has rocked his world "to the core."
"You are not the victim," he said to Cline. "You've been arrogant and self-centered since the beginning, focusing on yourself instead of the real victims."
"All I have left are pictures of Andy. I will have to wait until the advent of eternity to embrace my son," the Rev. Mr. Hopkins said.
Joyce Chamberlain remembered her daughter lovingly.
"Grace was going to contribute so much to this world," she said. "She was a beautiful wonderful person. We will miss her."
DaSilva, blind in one eye because of the accident, also addressed Cline. "You have no soul," he said. "You are an evil, evil man. You don't deserve to see the light of day, and I hope you never do."
Said he's sorry
Cline said despite how he has been portrayed, he is truly sorry for what he's done. "If I could do anything to take back that day, I would," said Cline, who blamed his alcoholism for the accident.
Cline, who came to court dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, also complained about his court-appointed attorney, saying he felt improperly represented by public defender Robert Umholtz.
Umholtz said he believes Cline is suffering from a mental illness, but he added that Cline has always refused treatment.
Also Wednesday, Judge Fuhry sentenced Cline's girlfriend, Karen Hensley of Burton, to six months in prison for lending her pickup truck to Cline, even though she knew Cline's driver's license was suspended.
About the accident
The three Hiram College freshmen were southbound on state Route 700 in Burton Township at 9:10 p.m. March 2 when Cline veered across the road.
Cline, who was in a high-speed chase with Burton police, slammed into the car with such force that authorities originally believed that DaSilva -- who was in the back seat -- was the driver.
Chamberlain was taken to Geauga Regional Hospital, where she died the night of the crash.
Both Hopkins and DaSilva were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where Hopkins died of his injuries March 13.
Cline had a blood-alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and refused to answer any questions when the Ohio State Highway Patrol tried to interview him after the accident, the patrol said in the crash report.