The drunken driver who hit and seriously injured three cyclists last May might serve only four years in prison.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has granted a May 27, 2003, parole date to Steven Ray Hudgens, who pleaded guilty to driving drunk and hitting the cyclists on U.S. 89 more than a year ago. Hudgens was sentenced January in Farmington’s 2nd District Court to zero to 10 years in prison.
State sentencing guidelines recommended 26 months in prison, but the parole board increased Hudgens’ prison stay to 48 months because of his lengthy list of DUI convictions (nine total before last May) and the severity of injuries to the three cyclists, according to Michael Sibbett, the board of pardons chairman.
Brian Carlson, who suffered the worst injuries of the three cyclists, said Hudgens’ possible release after four years was "a bit of a surprise."
"This shouldn’t just be a story about me being unhappy about him being released from prison. This is something everyone in the state should be worried about," Carlson said. "We’ve tried to raise the awareness of this issue. We have let the parole board and the judge and the prosecutor know how this has affected our lives."
As a result of the near-fatal accident, Carlson was unconscious for almost a month and had his left leg amputated; Brookanne Mickelson suffered, among other things, a torn knee ligament, a shattered pelvis and fractured vertebrae; and Maikel Wise suffered a collapsed lung.
All three have gradually recovered from their injuries, and Carlson has even started walking on a limited basis using a prosthetic leg.
As part of his parole, Hudgens must pay at least $473,881 in restitution, the board determined in its June 6 ruling.
"That was another factor in our decision. It’s a lot of money," Sibbett said. "He can’t pay that sitting in prison. He’s got a college degree, a long work history. . . . He has the capacity for making pretty good money."
Whether the three injured cyclists will ever see any of that money remains to be seen.
"If Mr. Hudgens has a conscience, he would hopefully see that as a way to repair some of the damage he has done," Carlson said. "The only thing we have to go on is his past behavior. I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt at this point."
Besides restitution, Hudgens must also install an interlocking system device in his car if he ever drives again, the board ruled. The system prevents a driver who is impaired from starting the car.
"It’s an excellent step in the right direction to have that interlock," said Rosalyn Richardson, president of the Salt Lake chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "The good thing about it is he has to pay for it and his blood-alcohol level has to zero to drive."
Hudgens had nine prior DUI arrests and a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he got into his pickup truck the day of the accident. He was also driving on an expired license.
After his release, Hudgens will be restricted from consuming or possessing alcohol and must complete mental health counseling for his alcohol addiction, the board also ruled. Hudgens has been enrolled in alcohol treatment programs and has had no discipline problems during his incarceration, Sibbett said.