By Ed Runyan
The mother of a teen hit by a vehicle and killed along Holcomb Road in Newton Township on Sept. 25, 2016, says she’s not happy that the man who hit him and got a 30-day jail sentence ended up serving only two days.
“He pretty much is getting out of serving jail time for killing someone,” said Jennifer Tuchek of Newton Falls, mother of Michael Hunyady, 19.
Instead of jail time, Don S. Bryant, 54, of Holcomb Road, served 127 days of electronically monitored house arrest with work privileges.
A. Joseph Fritz, the Newton Falls law director who approved the change from jail time to house arrest, said one reason was because of Trumbull County jail overcrowding.
Another is that Bryant, on his own initiative, served 72 extra days of house arrest while negotiations on a sentence modification were taking place.
Hunyady was riding his bicycle to work at a Newton Falls grocery store that Sunday morning when Bryant struck and killed him in the glare of the early morning sun.
Bryant said he was headed to a golf outing with the “sun in my face, couldn’t see nothing.” He had just left home, he said. He realized he hit something and stopped.
Another driver confirmed that it was difficult to see Hunyady because of the glare, and officers at the scene said Bryant did not appear to be impaired.
But later, the Ohio State Highway Patrol received lab results showing that Bryant’s urine test showed he had a large amount of marijuana metabolite in his system.
It showed Bryant had a marijuana reading of 200 nanograms-per-milliliter, which is close to six times the 35 nanograms-per-milliliter the state deems to be “some sort of impairment,” Fritz said.
Bryant pleaded guilty in Newton Falls Municipal Court on June 1 to operating a motor vehicle impaired and misdemeanor vehicular homicide.
Newton Falls Municipal Judge Philip Vigorito explained during the hearing that the vehicular homicide charge meant Bryant was negligent for driving without being able to see clearly, not because of the marijuana metabolite.
Fritz said it’s difficult to prove impairment from marijuana because it remains in a person’s body a long time, and it’s difficult to prove when the person last used the drug.
Bryant began serving his two days in the jail Thursday morning and is due to be released today.
Fritz said he tried calling Hunyady’s family once or twice while he was in negotiations with Bryant’s attorney several months ago to tell them about the modification. Fritz said he left a message but didn’t hear back.
Tuchek says she never got a message.
She said she only recently learned by reading The Vindicator that Bryant had been granted the option of serving 12 days of his 30-day jail term through house arrest, which Bryant did. The day of Bryant’s sentencing hearing, it appeared he also had to serve three additional days for the OVI, she added.
A court official said Friday Bryant’s three-day jail sentence for OVI was served by attending a driver’s intervention class.
“I’m just really irritated and [expletive] off that nobody contacted me to tell me,” she said of Bryant’s sentence modification.
As for why Bryant’s sentence was modified from 18 days to two, Fritz said negotiations were “in a state of flux ... and by the time it was settled, [Bryant] had 70-some days more house arrest than what he was originally assigned to have.”
At that point, Fritz agreed to allow the 18 days of jail time to be reduced to two in lieu of the 127 days of house arrest Bryant had already served.
A Newton Falls Municipal Court probation officer said Bryant served his house arrest June 1 through Oct. 6.
Fritz said there is precedent under Ohio law for individuals convicted of OVI serving extra days of house to reduce their jail time.