Ryan West sentenced for fatal accident

A Juneau man convicted of causing the death of a friend during an accident at Mile 35 Glacier Highway will serve six-years in prison, plus another three-years stemming from an earlier conviction that also involved a vehicle that he was driving.

The sentence for 27-year old Ryan West was handed down in Juneau Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

West was initially charged with second degree murder for the death of 19-year old Gabriel Carte in June 2011. The charge was reduced to criminally negligent homicide as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in the case.

Alcohol was considered as a factor in that accident.

West had lied to a grand jury about who was driving his truck that night. But prosecutors said they decided not to file perjury charges against West.

In light of the violation of probation from a previous incident involving a vehicle, probation officer Sara Dallas called West extremely dangerous and said that he appeared unable to take responsibility for his actions. She recommended, as part of West’s sentence, that he receive the maximum of ten-years probation.

When you’re looking at someone who has a probationary period, you’re hoping that that is going to deter them from committing another offense, certainly one of that nature. And what we have here now is Mr. West escalating into an offense – again involving a motor vehicle – that took someone’s life.”

Prosecutors also recommended that his driver’s license be revoked for life.

“You, Ryan, have never asked for help for your addiction problems. You’ve never apologized or taken ownership of what you’ve done,” said Carte’s mother April Horton.

This is not just about my son. It is about the next victim. I believe that Gabe was trying to save you when he got into your vehicle. He had just told me three hours before doing this that he was not going with you out the road. Only you, Gabe, and God know the reason why.”

On Tuesday, West apologized for the accident and asked for forgiveness from Carte’s family and the community.

When I think about it, I should’ve known better. It’s the small choices in life that create the biggest ripples. It’s been a hard road to figure out things and trying to figure it out still. There’s always growth ahead of me. I’m willing to work at it, and try to grow as an adult, as a productive member of the society and stuff.”

West noted that he still had aspirations to pursue a career in carpentry or start his own business.

Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez noted West’s failure to take responsibility for his actions and called the former high school football team captain a ‘wasted talent.’

You don’t listen. And what happens as a result of that is people get hurt and get killed. That’s my concern with you, young man. You’re 27-years old. You’ve got a bright head on your shoulders. You’ve shown from the past, in fact, (that) you could do marvelous things in your life. You could become a star if you wanted to become a star. But for some reason there’s some kind of beacon in you that causes you take the other road. Taking that road has resulted in the death of a friend of yours.”

Judge Menendez sentenced West to nine-years in prison with three-years suspended for the Glacier Highway accident in 2011. He also suspended West’s drivers license for ten-years while he’s on probation after calling him a danger to the community when he’s behind the wheel. West was also ordered to complete a residential substance treatment program while in prison.

West’s sentencing included re-imposed prison time that was suspended after his involvement in a 2009 accident in which a 19-year old woman was seriously injured after being dragged by his truck. That included two-years flat time for each charge of theft and failure to report an accident with one-year of each charge to be served concurrently, or three-years total to serve.

West has already been serving time in Lemon Creek Correctional Center awaiting a previously scheduled jury trial in the latest case. With credit for good time and time already served, he could out of prison in six-years.