A Cleveland man who killed a Chagrin Falls man in a two-car crash in Shalersville in September 2011 was sentenced in Portage County Common Pleas Court on Monday to one year in prison.
Harold W. Aliff III, 33, of Cleveland, apologized to the family of Dirk E. Kruger, a 47-year-old husband, father of two and advertising executive with Crain's Cleveland Business, who died in a two-vehicle head-on collision with Aliff's pickup truck on Sept. 1, 2011.
"I'd never take anyone's life on purpose," Aliff told the Kruger family. "I'd do anything I could to take it back. I have two children. I know what you're going through. I just want to tell you I'm sorry."
Aliff said he prayed for Dirk Kruger "every night."
Judge John Enlow sentenced Aliff to the prison term, the minimum on a charge of third-degree felony aggravated vehicular homicide. Aliff pleaded guilty to the charge in October 2012, and faced a minimum of probation, or between one and three years in prison.
Enlow also suspended Aliff's driver's license for 10 years, with the opportunity for driving privileges after three years. He also ordered Aliff to have an interlock device installed on all vehicles he drives to prevent him from driving under the influence and ordered him to report to the Portage County jail on Feb. 18 to begin serving his sentence.
According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, Aliff was northbound in a 2005 Dodge Dakota on S.R. 44 about one mile north of the Ohio Turnpike at 12:30 p.m. the day of the crash when his truck went left of center, striking Kruger's southbound BMW. Neither man was wearing a seatbelt, according to the highway patrol.
Kruger, who was not impaired, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna. Aliff also was taken to the hospital, treated and released.
Defense attorney David Lynch said Aliff admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the crash, which was the reason marijuana showed up in his bloodstream during chemical tests following the crash. The Portage County Prosecutor's Office dismissed impaired driving charges at the time of Aliff's guilty plea.
Lynch said Aliff has not driven a vehicle since the day of the crash and has been sober "for a very long time." He works full-time in his father's motorcycle shop and is "trying to get a grip on his life," Lynch said.
"It's been a battle for him and his emotions," Lynch said, calling the crash "a terrible, terrible tragedy" that "certainly" changed the lives of the Kruger family.
Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eric Finnegan said Aliff took responsibility for his actions when he admitted driving recklessly and causing the crash.
"Mr. Aliff took someone's life," Finnegan told Enlow. However, Aliff's admission of responsibility "doesn't bring (Kruger) back to his family."
Kruger's family wrote victim impact statements that Enlow made part of the official record, but declined the offer to speak in court.
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