Probationary sentence for driver in crash that killed US Marine



The driver of a truck who caused a fiery crash which killed a U.S. Marine in Springville in 2015 will spend the next four years on probation.
Before he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of two years on probation last week, Arlan E. Taft, now 61, of Tioga County, turned and faced the family of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew Stevens.
“I do apologize for everything that has happened,” Taft said, facing Stevens’ family.
“I can’t imagine what it’s put you through,” he offered. “I am really sorry for what has happened,” Taft continued in a creaky, faltering voice.
Stevens was 27 when on Jan. 2, 2015, a truck driven by Taft slammed into the back of the Dodge Durango he was driving, propelling it into another truck in front of him at the intersection of Routes 29 and 3004, the only traffic light in Springville. His vehicle burst into flames, killing him.
Stevens’ two young sons, Hunter and Logan, were at the sentencing hearing with their mother, Katy.
While still in the courtroom Taft approached the Stevens family, repeating, “I’m sorry.” He and the Stevens family then exchanged embraces. “I have two boys, too,” he was heard to say.
Taft originally faced more serious charges of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter but on the eve of his scheduled trial last month entered a guilty plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Taft faced a maximum of 12 years in prison if convicted on the homicide by vehicle and involuntary homicide charges but only a maximum of four years on the reckless endangerment charges.
The Stevens family also attended Taft’s plea hearing last month and agreed last week with the sentence ordered by Senior Judge Kenneth W. Seamans.
“I think it’s a case that deserves a probationary sentence,” defense attorney Ernest D. Preate Jr. told the judge.
Taft was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and has lost part of his throat. He has dropped to 130 pounds from his normal 180 pounds and speaks in a hoarse, raspy voice.
Andrew Stevens was a 9 1/2 year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stevens was a 2005 Elk Lake High grad.
Katy Stevens, the Marine’s wife and lifelong friend, addressed the court in an attempt to explain her anguish.
“I have thought about this day and what I would say for almost three years, thinking that I would be able to fully explain the impact on the loss of my husband and my children’s father,” Katy said, reading from a prepared statement.
“But the truth is, I will never be able to fully explain the impact because it didn’t just impact our lives on that day or in the time since he passed away but it will impact us for the rest of our lives,” she said.
Stevens’ older sister, Amanda Novitch, pointed out to the judge and courtroom that had Stevens’ Dodge Durango not been in front of Taft’s truck, Taft may have instead perished in the collision and fire. To her, that fact took on added significance given Andrew’s chosen profession – a U.S. Marine tasked with protecting the lives of United States citizens – citizens just like Taft.
“He may not have been on deployment overseas at the time of his death, but he did give his life to spare yours. Please, if not for our family, then for you and yours, do not take that gift for granted,” Novitch said.
A visibly moved First Assistant District Attorney Bill Urbanski asked Seamans for the “maximum probationary range, if not incarceration.”
“This case is probably more of a civil case than it is a criminal case,” Seamans observed from the bench.
A GPS monitor indicated that Taft’s truck, owned by Canyon Environmental, LLC, of Mansfield, was going 32 miles per hour immediately before the crash which occurred at the bottom on a long, steep hill. Investigators found no evidence of alcohol or drugs.
Stevens’ family and the driver of another truck involved in the crash, Bradley Powers of Montrose, have sued Canyon Environmental, as a result of the crash and Stevens’ death.
In his lawsuit still pending in Susquehanna County Common Pleas Court, Powers claims that Taft “knew or should have known that failing to shift into a low gear, before descending a hill, would cause difficulty with braking and/or stopping …”
Stevens’ father, Kenneth, wearing a t-shirt with a photograph of his son in a Marine Drill Instructor’s hat berating a Marine candidate, paused briefly after the hearing.
“I hope he appreciates what he’s got,” he said.
“If they don’t know from this they never will. It’s hard having to go to the cemetery to see your kid.”

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