Bill aims to fix hit-and-run loophole

Sen. Harris Dodd won’t run for re-election

Drivers would be required to stop and see what they’ve hit under a bill aimed at fixing a loophole in hit-and-run laws.

A Green Bay family is pushing for the measure after they lost their son to a hit-and-run crash in 2011 and say they were re-victimized when the driver was awarded a new trial.

Jeff and Colleen Kennedy told the Assembly Judiciary Committee Thursday about their 20-year-old son John, who was killed on a snowy Green Bay street in his wheelchair by 42-year-old Mark Sperber. Police said Sperber hit and catapulted Kennedy in the street with his truck, slowed at a corner, and left the scene.

Sperber was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison for the hit-and-run homicide but was awarded a new trial by an appeals court, because he claimed his attorney hadn’t properly offered his defense that he thought he’d hit a trash can that day.

Current law requires someone to know they’ve hit a person to be charged with OWI homicide.

Sperber cut a plea deal that then sentenced him to the 25 months he’d already served in prison.

“It is my opinion that most decent human beings would stop and check and see what they hit and offer aid to any vehicles, even if you hit a garbage can,” Jeff Kennedy said. “I also believe the reason you don’t stop to check is because you know you hit someone.”

The law change would also say a prosecutor would not have to prove that a driver knew they hit a person at trial. The bill’s authors say that loophole leads to people claiming they were drunk or asleep and didn’t know what they’ve hit and getting away with lesser penalties.

The bill will still need a vote in committee before going to the full legislature.