Man gets 30 days in jail for drunk-driving death
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU • June 10, 2009
BELMAR — Five days after the drunken driver of a yellow Corvette slammed into Christopher Nowak July 12 — and continued to drive for nearly a mile, with Nowak's head lodged in the front windshield and his feet jammed in the rear window, and with his blood seeping into the car — his parents received a letter.
Their 22-year-old son had been accepted into an electrical apprenticeship program. He had waited four years for that opportunity, his father said.
Mark Rich, 53, of Neptune, originally had been charged with vehicular homicide, a charge that carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. But a grand jury last year refused to indict him.
Instead, the case was remanded to municipal court, where Rich pleaded guilty last week to driving while intoxicated. Judge Dennis Lavender on Wednesday sentenced him to the maximum — 30 days in jail. But a grand jury found he was not criminally responsible for Christopher Nowak's death because Nowak was intoxicated, too, that night, with a blood alcohol content of .26 and cocaine in his system, Rich's attorney, Mitchell J. Ansell said. And Nowak was staggering in the middle of Route 35, wearing dark clothing at 11:30 on a Saturday night.
"Christopher Nowak tragically put himself in a place he should not have been, and that's what led to his death," Ansell said. "This was nothing more than a tragic accident."
Rich hit Nowak so hard that the victim's shoe flew into the air and later was found atop a two-story building, Stephen G. Schueler, municipal prosecutor said. And the intersection at Eighth Avenue is well lit enough that Rich should have known he hit a 220-pound man, not a seagull, as he claimed he originally thought, Schueler said.
"What I'm hearing from the defense is it's Chris Nowak's fault," Lavender said. ""What was he doing in that roadway?' It's not Chris Nowak's fault, Mr. Rich, it's your fault."
In fact, Lavender said, the sentence he imposed was too light. "But my hands are tied," he said.
This happened about 2 miles from where I live and I firmly agree with the statement: "And the intersection at Eighth Avenue is well lit enough that Rich should have known he hit a 220-pound man, not a seagull, as he claimed he originally thought, Schueler said."
As a matter of fact, the intersection is huge.
the key to happiness is to stop giving a fuck.