MAYS LANDING — Almon Taylor, acquitted in July of vehicular manslaughter in a 2009 crash that killed a Galloway Township teen, was taken from a courtroom in handcuffs after being sentenced to 150 days in jail for being drunk and reckless at the time.
Taylor, 43, also lost his driving privileges for a dozen years. The sentence was the longest the judge could give on the charges.
“The long and the short of it is, I just threw the book at you, Mr. Taylor,” Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor told him. “I don’t think you’re a bad man, I think you’re a dangerous man that the community needs protection from. By this sentence, I’ve given the community the max protection the law will allow me to.”
Taylor had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent — twice the legal limit — when he struck Cody Sanchez, 13, July 28, 2009, as the teen and his friends biked onto Redwood Avenue from the township path near the boy’s home.
“My son came in contact with a bad man,” Robert Sanchez told the court. “Mr. Taylor, the town drunk.”
Taylor was emotional as he apologized to Sanchez, repeatedly referring to how the two used to work together. As Taylor spoke, the distraught father — who previously described himself as “a broken man” — stared straight ahead, his face red as he avoided looking at the man who killed his son.
“I’m sorry, man,” Taylor said. “I’m sorry that your little man is gone.”
But no words could change what happened, said Linda Endicott, as she sobbed over the loss of her nephew.
“There is a hole in our family that can never be replaced,” she said. “He got in his car and drove his car and that’s why I no longer have my nephew.”
Taylor had two previous drunken-driving convictions, but since one was more than 10 years old at the time of the fatal crash, he was sentenced as a second-time offender.
Connor listed years of motor vehicle violations, saying they indicated a deep and continuing problem. He was especially concerned about a traffic stop two years after the crash, when Taylor was not supposed to be driving. He wondered if Taylor may have been drunk at that time.
“I wonder if you got away with one there,” Connor said. “Because on July 29, 2009, there wasn’t a cop in Galloway who thought you were drunk.”
He called Taylor’s risk of re-offending “off the charts.”
Defense attorney Joseph Levin said Taylor has taken steps to get help, including going through programs in Florida and New Jersey.
“I take responsibility for what I’ve done,” Taylor said, adding that he plans to speak wherever he can, including casinos and schools. “I want to send the message of the dangers of drinking and driving.”
Taylor would have faced five to 10 years in prison if convicted of the vehicular homicide charge.
“While he may have been acquitted of vehicular homicide, the result is still the same,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton said. “That is the death of a 13-year-old boy.”
Instead, Connor sentenced him to the maximum 90 days for driving while intoxicated and an additional 60 days for reckless driving, totaling 150 days, despite Levin arguing the sentences should be served concurrently.
“If this man had just stayed at home with his Coors Light that night, we wouldn’t be here,” Connor said. “And Cody Sanchez would be alive.”
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