NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (Jan. 3, 2024) – A tragic case came to a close in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court this morning.
22-year-old Mitchell Smith Junior of Port Washington will spend two to three years in prison for the December 2022 ATV crash in Salem Township that killed his passenger. He had an opportunity to speak before Judge Elizabeth Thomakos handed down the punishment and used it to apologize to the victim’s family.
“I wish it was me. It wasn’t him. I wish it was me… just know I’m really sorry.”
The victim’s mother asked the media not to identify him publicly, wanting him to be remembered for who he was and not what happened to him. She realizes that Smith didn’t mean any harm but is unwilling to forgive him.
“I hope that someday somebody kills one of your babies and you have to feel what I feel. If you think that I’m selfish and I’m hateful, then maybe you’ll have to feel this feeling some day, and then come to me and tell me how selfish and hateful I am.”
Smith was facing a maximum of 8 to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and OVI. However, his attorney, the prosecution, and judge all agreed that his otherwise clean criminal record, low risk of re-offending, and continued compliance with court orders called for a lighter punishment.
“This is the very thing that we all as parents, grandparents warn children against no matter how old they are – young, teenagers, young adults, older adults: reminding our children not to get behind the wheel drunk or under the influence in any way,” Thomakos said.
Aggravated vehicular homicide convictions carry a lifetime driver’s license suspension with the possibility of court-approved work privileges. The prison time Smith was ordered to serve is mandatory and will be followed by 18 months to three years of supervision through the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.