Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jun 2007
Source: Portage Daily Register (WI)
Copyright: 2007 Portage Daily Register
Author: Todd Krysiak, Daily Register
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)


Emotions ran high Friday as Nicholas Pulver was sentenced to serve two
years in prison and two years on extended supervision followed by two
more years of probation for crossing the center line on Highway 22 and
causing an accident that killed Markesan resident Lee Grams in 2004.

More than 50 family members from the Grams and Pulver families were
present for the sentencing and tears were shed on both sides.

Pulver addressed Grams' family for the first time shortly before the
sentence was handed down by Judge Daniel George.

"I am sorry for the pain I have caused you and hope you can find it in
your hearts to forgive me," he said as he turned around to face the
Grams family when he made the teary-eyed statement.

The Grams family played an 18-minute video of still photos and some
movie footage from Grams' life. The courtroom went completely silent
as the video was played, with the exception of an occasional sob heard
from the large audience. George ruled that the sound included on the
video would not be played for the courtroom.

More than 25 letters from family and friends on each side of the case
were accepted as impact statements for consideration in the sentence.

Grams was 22 years old at the time of his death. He was on his way
home from work at the time of the accident in Columbia County.

Several members of Grams' family addressed the court

Lee's youngest sister read a poem to the court and then spoke to
Pulver directly.

"I know you didn't mean to kill my brother, but you did mean to take
drugs," the young girl said. "And you were behind the wheel."

Pulver, 23, of Wyocena, pleaded no contest to charges of homicide by
negligent operation of a vehicle, operating a vehicle with a
detectable amount of a controlled substance in the blood and
possession of marijuana Feb. 9 as a result of the wreck and Grams'
subsequent death. He also pleaded no contest to a 2006 charge of
operating with a revoked driver's license at that hearing.

Pulver had been charged with homicide by use of a vehicle with a
detectable amount of a controlled substance in his blood, a relatively
new Wisconsin law at the time. According to court documents, Pulver
was found to have marijuana in his blood and had told police at the
hospital that he had smoked pot the night before the accident.

The constitutionality of the law was called into question in a pair of
Wisconsin State Appeals Court cases in 2005 that delayed Pulver's
case. The law was upheld in both cases, but in a plea agreement the
charge was dropped.

Pulver's defense attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, sought probation
for his client and said the finding of marijuana in his system had
nothing to with the accident.

"There has been no evidence presented and there is nothing to suggest
that the marijuana impaired his ability to drive that night," Van
Wagner said. "Nothing the court does can replace what's been lost in
this case. Anyone could have been in this situation, charged with
homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. Anyone cold have been

Van Wagner said Pulver was negligent by not paying close enough
attention to the road, but drug use was not the cause of the wreck.

"This was a tragedy of epic proportions, but it was not a crime of
epic proportions," Van Wagner said.

Following the hearing, Lee's mother, Debbie, said the family was not
disappointed with the result, but angry that Grams did not take
responsibility for using marijuana.

"For them to continue to deny that drugs had any part in this is just
beyond us," she said.

Columbia County District Attorney Troy Cross prosecuted the case and
said he would not make a recommendation for the length of a sentence,
but asked for some jail time. George granted that request.

Van Wagner said he was saddened by the sentence.

"I'm disappointed he wasn't given a chance for probation," he said.
"Because of his age at the time and his obvious remorse, I thought
that would be a viable option."

The Grams family supported the ruling.

"We're glad he got some prison time," Debbie said. "It's difficult. At
first, we really wanted to believe that this was just another young
man who made a mistake, but we learned that wasn't the case."

Several family members pointed to numerous encounters Pulver had with
law enforcement after the deadly accident.

According to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access system, Pulver pleaded
no contest to charges of speeding in 2004 and 2005, drunk driving in
2005 and driving with a revoked driver's license in 2006.

George said he found these subsequent offenses problematic.

"It is extremely troubling that after the accident occurred, you
continued to make poor decisions," he said. "I can't imagine
conducting yourself in that fashion with the type of charge hanging
over your head that existed."

Van Wagner said Pulver had since sought counseling and has changed, a
statement Pulver tried to back up.

"I made a lot of bad decisions afterwards. I went out drinking. I knew
I would regret it, but I did it anyway ... I was in a state of
depression," he said. "I didn't learn from one mistake and made
another. I got counseling and after many sessions with my doctor, I
learned life is too short not to care. I learned what is important and
have spent a lot of time with my family."

Van Wagner asked George to stay his sentence until Monday so that
Pulver could spend the weekend with his family. The request was
granted and Pulver was ordered to report to jail at 8 a.m. Monday.
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