SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The national office of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) wrote a letter to a Greene County judge Monday, condemning his ruling in the case of Dylan Meyer.
Circuit Judge David Jones sentenced Dylan Meyer to 5 years probation last month after he was convicted of first degree involuntary manslaughter in the Feb. 2015 death of 38-year-old Kelly Williams.
On Feb. 10, 2015, Meyer’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was nearly three times the legal limit when he ran through a red light at the intersection of Campbell and Battlefield at a speed of more than 90 miles per hour.
Kim Knox has been involved locally with MADD since she lost her 18-year-old son to drunk driving in 2005.
“He was in college, had a blood alcohol level of .238 and he hit a concrete culvert and was killed instantly,” Knox said.
In her time with MADD, Knox said she has never seen the organization’s national leaders get this angered about a local case.
“I’ve stood in the background of a lot of cases, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen the national office go to this length,” Knox said.
In the letter to Jones, MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church wrote: “When you can kill someone and walk away with 5 years probation, the consequences quite frankly seem inconsequential.”
Sheehey-Church also wrote “when judges let offenders like Dylan Meyer walk away from their crime with a slap on the wrist, it sends a message to society that drunk driving isn’t a crime, it’s an accident.”
Judges are typically barred from speaking to the media about their rulings.
KOLR10 obtained a copy of court records from a hearing Meyer attended Mar. 4. relating to the terms of his probation.
Those documents show Jones believes society gets more benefit from a rehabilitated and sober Dylan Meyer than it does from a 10-year prison sentence. Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson had argued for a 10-year sentence, and like MADD, he criticized Jones’ ruling publicly.
“The court believed that under that sentencing scenario, the defendant would have very little chance of becoming a productive member of society upon his release from such a sentence,” Jones said. “Instead, he would likely turn to further substance abuse and a life of crime with new victims.”
“To young people it [this ruling] just reinforces it won’t be me, I won’t go to jail, I’ll be fine,” Knox said. “The sad thing is that it can be them. In my case, my son was the intoxicated driver, he lost his life.”
Prosecutors said Meyer’s statements from jail suggest avoiding prison was more important to him than apologizing.
In a news release after he was sentenced, prosecutors said Meyer wrote a letter to a friend from jail in which he stated: “I don’t want to go to prison but I guess I may not have a choice. I may get a 120 day treatment program out of it, if I play this off like I’m an alcoholic.”
Knox wanted Meyer to wait years to get a second chance, but she said now she wants him to realize he is lucky to have that chance now.
“My son died, Dylan Meyer lived,” Knox said. “My only hope would be that whatever he does with his life, he makes it count.”
If Meyer violates his probation, he could serve a 10 year prison sentence.
Letter from MADD to David Jones:
Honorable Judge David Jones
Judicial Circuit 31
1010 N. Booneville
Springfield, MO 65802
Dear Judge Jones:
My name is Colleen Sheehey-Church and I am the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It’s the kind of job that no one dreams of having – because in order to be MADD National President, you must have suffered the unimaginable pain of someone you love being killed or injured by a drunk driver.
I am writing to you today on behalf of the family of Kelly Williams and the hundreds of thousands of drunk and drugged driving victims that our organization serves. We are seeing a disturbing trend in the criminal justice system where the courts are treating offenders as victims particularly as it relates to sentencing.
I understand that defendants have rights, including the right to make whatever excuses they want for their actions. No one is disputing that. But fundamentally, explanation is not justification, and it is the court’s job to use sentencing to assign formal legal consequences for the conviction of a crime. When you can kill someone and walk away with 5 years’ probation, the consequences quite frankly seem inconsequential. And yet the family is left with a life sentence of losing their loved one.
When judges let offenders like Dylan Meyer walk away from their crime with a slap on the wrist, it sends a message to society that drunk driving isn’t a crime, it’s an accident. I can assure you to the thousands of victims out there like me and the Williams family, drunk driving is no accident.
If we want to stop drunk driving from taking more innocent lives like Kelly Williams, then we have to send a clear message: drunk driving is a violent and 100 percent preventable crime. It’s not surprising to me that Mr. Meyer made statements while in jail awaiting judgment that “I may get a 120 day treatment program out of it, if I play this off like I’m an alcoholic.” However, what is surprising to me is that you knew that and still let him go with probation. He clearly believed, and you then confirmed, that he could explain away his guilt and therefore his consequences.
If the criminal justice system continues to allow offenders and defense attorneys to use excuses as a means to offset culpability, then we can’t act surprised when individuals like Dylan Meyer disregard the law. After all, laws without consequences are just empty words, and the result will be more empty chairs for families like the Williams’.
I hope you give MADD the opportunity to meet with you in person and share our perspective. You play such a key role in our efforts to stop drunk driving. Together, we can create a future of No More Victims. But to do so we need to stop making excuses for the inexcusable.
MADD National President