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Reading Eagle Berks and Beyond
Wednesday October 21, 2015 12:01 AM
Mark D. Miller turned slowly from the front of the courtroom Tuesday and looked directly at the family and friends of former East Penn Manufacturing CEO Sally Miksiewicz.
Shackled and in a yellow Berks County Prison jumpsuit, Miller paused for a moment before speaking.
“I am sorry,” he said, slowly and without losing eye contact. “That’s all I can say.”
Miller appeared before Judge John A. Boccabella to admit that he was driving under the influence of a combination of prescription and illegal drugs when his pickup truck hit and killed Miksiewicz, 52, while she was jogging in Pike Township on June 20, 2014.
Miller, 58, of the 200 block of South View Road, pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance and to driving under the influence of a controlled substance.
Boccabella sentenced Miller to three to six years in state prison followed by two years of probation, based on a plea agreement negotiated between defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky and Assistant District Attorney Justin D. Bodor.
Miller will receive credit for 454 days previously spent in prison.
Authorities said Miller was driving twice the speed limit and was unable to maneuver a sharp curve on Boyer Road when he hit Miksiewicz near her home at about 7:20 a.m.
Miller told police he had taken Zoloft, Fentanyl, oxycodone and Vasotec before driving. Blood tests taken after the crash showed that he had amphetamine, methamphetamine, clonazepam, oxycodone and marijuana in his system.
Sodomsky noted that Miller suffers from several mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but added that those illnesses were not the reason for the crash.
‘She left a void’
Sodomsky said Miller was pleading guilty, but mentally ill, which will allow him to receive necessary treatment while he is incarcerated.
The defense attorney said it is important to remember that individuals are punished for doing wrong based on their culpability. In this case, while Sodomsky agreed that Miller was wrong to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, he said his client did not intentionally cause the death of Miksiewicz.
“It’s a very sad situation,” Sodomsky said. “Mr. Miller feels very remorseful. Mr. Miller suffers from illnesses himself and will have to live with this for the rest of his life.”
Bodor said Miksiewicz’ death was certainly a huge loss to the community, but more importantly to her four children and her life partner, Victor Rodriguez Jr., who was in the courtroom with his parents and three of Sally’s friends from East Penn.
“The most tragic element here, your honor, is that she won’t get to see those kids get married or graduate from college, some of those milestones that are so important in life,” Bodor said.
Alison Snyder, the personnel director for East Penn, told Boccabella it is hard to describe the impact Miksiewicz’ death has had on the company.
“Everyone in our organization loved Sally,” Snyder said. “She left a void in our workforce, our customers and vendors and it’s impacted thousands of individuals.”
Snyder said she’s personally still having a hard time dealing with the senselessness of the death.
“I play it over and over again in my mind of how many ways this situation could have been avoided,” she said. “Her children need her, her family needs her, her friends need her, Victor needs her, the company needs her and it’s not fair.”
A frustrated judge
Before issuing his sentence, Boccabella took time to read aloud the various medications Miller was prescribed and their effects on the human brain and body.
Boccabella, who handles the bulk of the county’s DUI cases, said he’s seen an increase in cases involving prescription medications. The judge said he has a problem with the fact that such strong medications can be prescribed to patients without proper warnings of their potency.
“We punish drug dealers and those who manufacture and sell illegal drugs and track them down in connection to deaths,” the judge said, “but we have huge drug companies and a medical community that prescribes powerful drugs willy nilly.”
The judge said he believes that when strong medications are prescribed, a notice should be given to the Department of Transportation in order to suspend that patient’s drivers license until he or she is no longer on the medication.
“This is one of the tough parts of the job, but until we come to grips with the medical community prescribing these type of drugs, without notifying the Department of Transportation, we’re going to continue to see this forever,” he said. “And it’s getting worse instead of better.”
That said, Boccabella said Miller was fully responsible for the crash because he took a dangerous combination of his prescriptions with illegal drugs. The judge said he believes the plea agreement in the case was fair, and reminded those in court that Miller’s life has changed drastically too.
“I hope this keeps you off the streets and out of this situation for as long as possible,” he said to Miller. “Hopefully you can get off your medication. If you can’t, then you can’t drive.”
Contact Stephanie Weaver: 610-371-5042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.