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Bowman to serve 4 1/2 to 11 years

Victims’ testimony scathing in agg assault DUI case

Donald Bowman

LOCK HAVEN — A Lock Haven man found guilty of driving while drunk, crossing his lane of travel and slamming into an oncoming car seriously injuring two women, has been sentenced to serve from 4 1/2 years to 11 years and four months in state prison, and pay restitution totalling $97,698.

Potter County Judge John B. Leete handed down the sentence on Friday afternoon to Donald Wayne Bowman, 46, of 105 Gobblers Knob Lane, who was charged with two counts of aggravated asault while driving under the influence, two counts of aggravated assault by motor vehicle and several other offenses in connection with the violent accident on Dec. 23, 2016 on Route 664 in Bald Eagle Township.

The sentencing lasted for about an hour as both victims — Brenda K. Yonkin, 53, of Mill Hall and her passenger Megan Byrnes, 25, of Lock Haven — read their statements, telling the court through sobbing and tears, that their lives will never be the same and relating the pain and suffering endured on that night almost three years ago.

Bowman also spoke, telling the two women, seated behind him in the courtroom, that he takes full responsibility for this accident, that he never should have been drinking and driving and asking them to forgive him for what happened.

Judge Leete called it a difficult case in a different way for everyone involved. He said he heard the case during the jury trial in October, read all the reports and letters submitted by character witness and the probation department and heard the testimony on Friday.

“What we have here is a man… a law-abiding citizen, an outstanding employee and someone who cares for his relatives and others… an all around good guy.

“That doesn’t mean a good person cannot commit a terrible act. Good people sometimes do very bad things. He had no intent. However, because of the choices he made — to drink, not a little but a significant amount. His blood alcohol level was .15, almost double the state limit, and to drive. And amazingly suggest (during testimony at trial) that these victims were on the wrong side of the road. The evidence at trial was overwhelming.

“What happened because of his choices was utter catastrophe. Two women’s lives are changed forever. They still have severe health issues. Medical expenses were in excess of $1 million. Ms. Byrnes almost died in the ambulance and had to be resuscitated several times. They’ve lost big pieces of their lives. Some won’t be coming back. When I heard Ms. Byrnes say she suffers from PTSD … let there be no doubt… victims of crimes like this do suffer from PTSD. And it’s all because a good man did a very bad thing.

“It’s only by the grace of God that we didn’t have a third little victim,” the judge continued, referring to Byrnes 4-year-old son Kaden who was in a child restraint seat in the back seat of the car and was not injured.

“The consequences to the victims will last a lifetime and there will be consequences to you. At some time you will walk out of state prison and it’s going to be hard,” he told Bowman before pronouncing sentence.

On each of two counts of aggravated assault by DUI, the sentence is 22 to 44 months and for each of two counts of aggravated assault by motor vehicle the sentence is 5 to 24 months, all to be served consecutively, for a total of 54 months to 136 months or 4 1/2 to 11 years, four months. Charges of driving under the influence, careless driving and reckless driving carried fines and probation.

The courtroom was filled with sadness, as friends and family members of both victims and the defendant sobbed throughout the proceeding.

Perhaps the most emotional was the testimony of Yonkin and Byrnes, both of whom read statements.

There was silence as Yonkin made her way to the witness stand, her injuries from the accident still noticeable as she limped the short distance.

“I can’t describe the impact on me. I remember everything I saw, heard, smelled and felt. I remember my hand dangling from my arm, my bones grinding together. I was terrified and there was nobody there to help us. When they called for Lifeflight I thought I was going to die and my babies would never see me again. The pain was so intense at times that I wished I had died.

“Now I live every day with pain, panic attacks… I can’t ride in a car, now I want to stay home. I wasn’t home for months. My life changed dramatically since that fateful night. I will never be the same again because of the choice you made to drink and drive,” she said, directing her words to the defendant seated beside his attorney Patrick Johnson.

Byrnes’ words came with difficulty as she stopped numerous times to regain composure and wipe the tears that streamed down her face.

“Mr. Bowman, I have so much hatred toward you. It’s extremely hard for me to forgive you. I pray someday I will. I had a good job. I loved what I did. I was a great mother. I loved my life. I felt on top of the world and then everything crumbled into pieces.

“We were coming from Christmas dinner. It was so perfect, but I never made it home that night. When I woke up I couldn’t breath. I was scared. There were tubes down my throat and I was tied down in my bed. When I started to come out of it, I felt alone, scared, angry, in pain and depressed. I wished I would have died. I was crippled. I felt alone. I lost faith. I was in a dark place. I gave up. I hated life. I have PTSD, flashbacks, anxiety attacks.

“It’s hard to manage day-to-day because you chose to drink and drive. You ruined my life. It was not an accident. How dare you get on the stand like you did at the trial and blame us. You are a monster, you are evil, you have no remorse. You never apologized. I don’t know how you sleep at night. You put us through hell. I hope you get the maximum sentence. I hope I never see you again and you spend a long time in prison and this Christmas you aren’t with your family,” Byrnes said.

Two character witnesses took the stand and talked about Bowman, who they said they knew from their employment at Jersey Shore Steel.

Wade Potter, plant superintendent, said Bowman has changed, and said emphatically that he is remorseful for what happened. Potter said Bowman was a good employee.

Mark Francolino, who also worked with Bowman at Jersey Shore Steel, said the defendant was always willing to go the extra mile and always tried to help people out. He was going through a bad time and made a bad mistake. He was so remorseful, but couldn’t express that on advice of council.” He said Bowman completed DUI counseling at Crossroads.

Opening the proceedings, defense attorney Johnson said, “This was one of the most difficult cases I’ve handled in my career … a law-abiding productive life and two individual lives changed forever. It’s very difficult. There a lot of lives affected… not in a positive way.

“He’s a good guy who was going through a tough time and made a poor decision,” Johnson said noting that Bowman lost his father and was getting out of a bad relationship at the time of the accident.

Addressing accusations that Bowman is not remorseful, Johnson said, “Mr. Bowman is sorry… unequivicably.. he is extraordinarily sorry for the pain he caused to himself and the victims, their families and his own family.

“Mr. Bowman is a productive person who had a really bad day,” Johnson said.

Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Mike Angelelli said in the pre-sentence investigation, it was noted that Bowman did not want to lose his employment.

“Yonkin is 53 years old and will never work again. She has no prior record. This was not an accident caused by weather. He chose to drink and drive. He’s familiar with that road, was intoxicated and in the wrong lane. At trial he said he was not in the wrong lane… they were in the wrong lane. Everyone has sadness in their life but they’re not getting into a vehicle drunk and driving,” Angelelli said, asking the judge to sentence Bowman at the upper end of the sentencing scale and make the sentences for each crime concurrent.

As to the $97,698 in restitution, Judge Leete said it includes $22,768 to Yonkin and $67,605 to Byrnes.

Before the proceeding ended, Johnson asked the judge to consider post-sentence bail, noting his intention to appeal the sentence.

The judge replied: “Bail is denied. These are serious offenses. There must be some level of accountability. Bail is denied. The defendant stands committed.”

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