Sentence in vehicular homicide reduced after drug law voided

Jeromy K. Ladwig, 40, appeared in Island County Superior Court telephonically from prison Tuesday to be resentenced. His sentence was cut from 12 years to five years and a month.

The sentence of an Oak Harbor man convicted of vehicular homicide was significantly reduced as a result of a state Supreme Court decision voiding the state’s drug possession laws.

Jeromy K. Ladwig, 40, appeared in Island County Superior Court telephonically from prison Tuesday to be resentenced. His sentence was cut from 12 years to five years and a month.

In June of 2018, a jury found Ladwig guilty of vehicular homicide in the death of 18-year-old Keesha Harden of Coupeville.

Ladwig drove a 2001 Ford Mustang, with Harden as a passenger, from the parking lot of Joseph Whidbey State Park into the path of a 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup early in the morning of May 2, 2016. Harden was killed.

A judge sentenced Ladwig to 12 years in prison. Island County Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme said in court at the time that he had planned on recommending twice that, but it turned out the fatal crash occurred just a month before the law allowing the longer sentence went into effect.

The sentencing range a defendant faces in a felony case is affected by the person’s criminal history through “offender scores,” which are computed from prior convictions.

In Ladwig’s case, he had an offender score of 9, which meant the maximum under the sentencing range was 12 years. The score included four convictions for drug possession.

Ohme asked for the maximum of 12 years and the judge imposed it.

But then the state Supreme Court ruled in State v. Blake that the state’s simple drug possession statute violated the due process clause of the state and federal constitutions. The retroactive decision affects tens of thousands of convictions going back 50 years.

In Ladwig’s case, the ruling meant that the drug possession cases couldn’t be used in calculating his offender score. He was resentenced Tuesday based on an offender score of 5.

Ohme asked for a sentence of five years and a month in prison, which was the new maximum sentence. Judge Carolyn Cliff agreed.

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