The 55-year-old Port Washington man guilty of injuring an 81-year-old Port woman in a drunken hit-and-run accident in December will serve four years in prison with six years of supervision.
Kevin P. Brown to two felony counts: hit-and-run causing bodily injury and injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle. Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy sentenced him on Thursday to four years in prison with six years of supervision on each count — but the sentence is to be served concurrently, so he will not be in prison more than four years.
When out on supervision, Brown will be subject to random alcohol tests and should maintain absolute sobriety. He and the family also must sort through medical bill restitution, which the family says could be up to $1 million.
Brown’s sentencing after District Attorney Adam Gerol learned that the victim, Dolores Kopacz, had died on Saturday. Gerol needed to determine whether the victim’s death was related to injuries from the crash.
Family members in town for Kopacz’s funeral took the time to appear in court on Thursday afternoon. Brown’s daughter also sat in the emotion-filled courtroom.
Gerol told the courts he cannot prove nor does he believe that Kopacz died because of her injuries. In spring, she was diagnosed with cancer after moving to Wyoming to be with family, and ultimately died from pneumonia.
"I am sorry for all the pain and suffering that she endured and I apologize with all my heart."
"Dolores Kopacz was an extremely vibrant woman — she was full of life. She was ... vibrant, even at the age of 81," Gerol said. But Kopacz would never fully bounce back from the injuries of the accident.
Where she used to walk several miles daily, Kopacz spent months in therapy repairing a broken leg — among other broken body parts — and had since only been able to walk around using a walker.
Kopacz's son-in-law spoke at the hearing, and referenced a time when Kopacz had talked about how she had wished Brown was with her — to clean the house and help Kopacz out of her chair and to realize the impact the accident had on her life.
To this statement, a tearful Brown shifted from bobbing sods to a agreeing nod of a head.
"(That morning) I made the worst decision of my entire life," Brown said. "For that I am truly sorry. I am sorry for all the pain and suffering that she endured and I apologize with all my heart.
"I am so sorry for my lack of judgement," he continued, adding that he feels sick every time he thinks about what he did.
Though Kopacz is no longer around to hear Brown’s sympathetic apology, it seems she had already forgiven him. Gerol read a victim impact statement letter that Kopacz had written just two weeks before her death.
"Please understand that I have no hate for Mr. Brown," Kopacz wrote, adding that she believed a long prison term would do no good for Brown. "My hope is to get him the help he needs so that this never happens again."
Gerol called many aspects of Brown's character "noble," and said it's apparent the impact this incident has had on the defendant; Brown has been on suicide watch since day one, Gerol said.
"I can try my hardest to prove (to everyone) that something like this will never, ever happen again," Brown said. "I will do whatever is necessary to be a sober and responsible member of this community. ... I will not let anybody down, this is my sincere promise."
Malloy said he believes that Brown is unlikely to do something like this again, but in his sentencing said he still needed to consider three factors: the gravity of the offense, the character of the defendant and the need to protect the public.
Further, Malloy said, he needed to consider bigger picture issue of drunken driving, and too light of a sentence could make such an offense seem less criminal.
"(Drunken driving is) a chronic problem that I wish we were making more progress on," he said.
Brown's attorney, Gerald Boyle, agreed that alcoholism is a horrible problem in this society, one that puts a little "devil" inside a good person such as Brown.
"I have always felt so sad for people who are alcoholics," he said, "it's heart-wrenching ... you know it's a path to disaster.
"And then, when something bad happens — you really see (that person's) true character," he added, saying Brown truly stepped up to the plate for his actions.
Boyle said he was "blown away" by the forgiving attitudes of the Kopazc family.
Services for Kopacz will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at in Port, according to her obituary.