CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Michael Mauer was simply waiting for a bus when Anthony J. Friel, high on heroin, crashed his car into another vehicle nearby at a busy Middle Township intersection.
Friel’s car careered off the road, hitting Mauer and others waiting at a bus stop.
“I was going to see my aunt in the Villas,” Mauer said.
Instead, on March 29, 2011, he found himself on the way to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus in Atlantic City. The injuries to his legs were so severe they had to be amputated at the knee.
On Friday, Friel, of Lower Township, was in Superior Court, where he was sentenced after pleading guilty in March to second-degree aggravated assault involving serious bodily injury and the third-degree crime of leaving the scene of an accident.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Friel was sentenced to 14 years in state prison, a sentence Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten said should serve as a deterrent to others.
“If ever there were crimes committed that could have — and should have — been avoided, this is one such instance,” Batten said.
Batten sentenced Friel to nine years in prison for aggravated assault, subject to the state’s No Early Release Act, meaning he must serve 85 percent of that sentence, or more than 71/2 years, before becoming eligible for parole. Batten also sentenced him to five years in prison, to begin after he serves his first sentence, for leaving the scene. There is no minimum on that term.
Mauer addressed the court during Friday’s sentencing.
“I want to be able to walk. I want to be able to stand. I don’t want to sit in a wheelchair and marry my wife, my soon-to-be wife,” Mauer, 38, said as he his fiancee, Margaret Brownsweiger, looked on.
Friel, 37, had used heroin in the hours before the crash, and was stopped by Wildwood police officers for running a stop sign near Maxwell Field at 10:21 a.m. Knowing his license was suspended, Friel fled.
He drove his Nissan Altima out of Wildwood and into the Rio Grande section of Middle Township, at times reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph.
Friel soon crashed into a truck driven by Jim Meehan, who suffered a broken back, and drove into the bus stop where Mauer and another victim, Victor Kamps, were both hit. Kamps suffered a broken leg.
“I just want to apologize to this gentleman right here,” Friel said.
“I would never intentionally do something like that,” Friel said as he turned toward Mauer.
“I wish there was something I could do financially to help you and help you walk again,” Friel said, adding, “If I could trade places with you, I would.”
Mauer and Brownsweiger then both addressed the court.
Brownsweiger said her fiance faces many more surgeries and likely will never walk again.
“Michael will never be able to walk down the beach and feel the sand between his toes,” she said.
Mauer, of Philadelphia, said he heard Friel’s apology, but he said he didn’t see any emotion from Friel.
“I just hope you learn something out of this,” Mauer said.
Friel’s mother, despite Friel’s objections, also spoke.
She told the court that her son should not be sentenced to 14 years in prison and she blamed Mauer for pushing for the sentence, calling him “the pain in the ass that was at the prosecutor.”
“Mom, mom. Stop,” Friel told her. “That was unnecessary.”
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson said Mauer never asked for anything.
“He never demanded any sort of sentence in this case. That was all my decision,” Johnson told the judge.
Defense attorney David Stefankiewicz told the judge Friel was “extremely remorseful.”
“He never started out that day intending to hurt anyone,” Stefankiewicz said.
Johnson said that Friel ran away from the scene after the crash, leaving the victims behind.
“(Mauer) was there fighting for his life as the defendant ran off,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Friel had a criminal history, which included drug charges and disorderly persons convictions. He had a suspended driver’s license for various administrative charges, Stefankiewicz said.
In addition, he received a concurrent four-year sentence for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. During Friday’s hearing, Friel also pleaded guilty to the single motor vehicle summons of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. He received a 180-day jail sentence for that plea. More than a dozen other motor vehicle summonses were dismissed.
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