Judge Sullivan upholds sentence
HOLLIDAYSBURG – When sentencing Jennifer Joyce Sloan of Cresson in December for the traffic death of a Dysart woman, Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan included several unusual provisions, including requirements that she always carry of photograph of the victim, place flowers on the victim’s grave on the anniversary of the fatal accident and annually donate $100 to the Women’s Health Center in Ebensburg.
The victim of the April 3, 2013, accident, Connie Mae Naylor, 58, was a respected volunteer at the women’s center.
These provisions were in addition to a 30- to 60-month prison sentence followed by nine years’ probation.
Sloan’s attorney, Thomas M. Dickey, in January filed a petition challenging the length of the prison sentence, calling it “unreasonable and manifestly excessive” and characterizing the special provisions as “wholly and irrationally disproportionate to the crime.”
On Friday, the judge refused to alter his sentence.
In a 14-page opinion, he said he believes the conditions he imposed were “fair and appropriate.”
He repeatedly stated he was not intending to punish Sloan but to remind her of the poor decisions she has made when it comes to her drinking and driving.
He said he wanted to motivate her to seek alcohol treatment and counseling “so that she can achieve and maintain sobriety, be healthy for herself and her family, and no longer pose a serious and substantial risk to safety of herself and others.”
During the December sentencing hearing, it was revealed that Sloan had three prior DUI convictions from another state and that she faced another DUI in Juniata County stemming from an arrest in August 2014.
The defense, through a witness testifying during the sentencing hearing, pointed out Sloan turned to alcohol as a way to deal with post-traumatic stress that she suffered as a result of her time in the Air Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
But Blair County First Assistant District Attorney Jackie Bernard argued Sloan’s actions showed a need for the rehabilitation programs offered within the state correctional system and that society had to be protected from her.
After receiving Sullivan’s decision, Bernard issued a statement saying, “Nothing will bring Connie Naylor back to her family or her community. This sentence represents the very least that the defendant should do in recognition of the gravity of her actions and the loss of Ms. Naylor,” Bernard wrote.
She continued, “It is incomprehensible that she would even quibble about putting flowers on the grave of the woman that she killed.”
Bernard concluded, stating she and the Naylor family were pleased Sullivan rejected the defense requests to eliminate the special provisions and reduce the sentence.
In challenging the sentence, Dickey said Sullivan erred when he imposed consecutive sentences on the charges of accidents involving death and homicide by vehicle.
Dickey argued the charges “merged,” meaning the sentences should have been imposed concurrently so they would run at the same time.
Sullivan ruled the charges should be viewed as separate offenses.
He also rejected a request that Sloan be declared eligible for the state’s Motivational Boot Camp.
Sloan has been behind bars since she was arrested for DUI in August 2014 and the judge approved Bernard’s petition to revoke her bail stemming from the fatal accident.
Sullivan said her minimum sentence would be near conclusion by the time she would become approved for boot camp.
He said Sloan therefore was not an appropriate candidate.
The fatal accident occurred on Route 22 in Blair County as Sloan was traveling between 81 and 84 mph and rammed into the rear of Naylor’s car.
Sloan, 34, is housed at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy.
She was sentenced in January to a concurrent one-to-five-year sentence for the DUI charge from Juniata County.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.