No trial; Ackley pleads guilty
By Jane Beathard
Family and friends of Mark and Jo Ann Williams were spared graphic details of the April crash that killed the couple, after the London man accused of causing the wreck abruptly decided to admit his guilt.
Timothy S. Ackley, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide in Madison County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, averting a scheduled jury trial in the case. He admitted he was driving drunk on state Route 142 about 2:30 p.m. on April 2 when he lost control of his pick-up and hit the Williams’ motorcycle head-on. The couple died at the scene.
No plea bargain was involved in Ackley’s decision, according to county prosecutor Steve Pronai.
It might have been the thought of 40 prospective jurors and more than 12 prosecution witnesses waiting in the hall or the sight of uniformed deputies pacing the courtroom that convinced Ackley to cut Tuesday’s proceedings short.
“A courtroom setting sometimes makes the defendant re-evaluate his position,” Judge Robert D. Nichols told jurors.
Whatever the reason, Ackley’s pleas appeared to satisfy Williams family members.
“I’m very, very happy we didn’t have to sit through the details,” said Melissa Schopp, Mrs. Williams’ daughter.
Those details, including vulgar remarks voiced by Ackley about the victims, were likely to be aired during trial testimony. Trooper Shane Meddock of the Ohio State Highway Patrol testified at a September hearing that Ackley uttered insensitive and racially-charged comments at the accident scene and later at the patrol’s West Jefferson Post.
Ackley now faces up to 8 years in prison and $15,000 in fines for each of the dual convictions, depending on the outcome of a pre-sentence investigation. Regardless, his driver’s license will be suspended for life.
Nichols set sentencing for Dec. 13.
Denver Mathews, Mrs. Williams’ brother, will ask Nichols to levy a maximum total sentence of 16 years behind bars and $30,000 in fines.
That may or may not happen under current Ohio law.
“Consecutive sentences (for both counts) are presumptive, but not mandatory,” Nichols said. “Sentencing has become a complex process.”
Assistant county prosecutor Eamon Costello said the law requires certain conditions for consecutive sentences. Court staff will look at Ackley’s criminal history, parole status, likelihood of committing more crimes and other factors before making a recommendation.
“I will seek the maximum sentence,” Costello said.
Mathews, Schopp and other family members said they are ready to face Ackley on Dec. 13.
“I’m going to say what we won’t have (any longer),” said Michelle Brooks, Mr. Williams’ daughter.
Mathews said his sister, a nurse in a drug and alcohol treatment facility, would forgive Ackley’s reckless behavior.
“She would have taken care of him,” he said.
Mathews also noted his sister would work to toughen Ohio’s drunk-driving penalties.
“She would try to get the law changed,” he said.