A Vancouver man was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison for vehicular homicide in a 2018 crash in Battle Ground that killed a Clark Pubic Utilities employee.
Joseph Dudley, 22, pleaded guilty to the charge under the prong of disregarding the safety of others, in November in Clark County Superior Court. He was originally charged with vehicular homicide while operating a vehicle in a reckless manner, which carried a maximum sentence of 102 months in prison. A charge of reckless driving was also dismissed.
According to court records, Albert M. Apana, 56, of Vancouver died in the crash while leaving a work site.
On Sept. 14, 2018, Dudley, then 18 years old, was driving a 2004 GMC Envoy SUV south in the 29900 block of Northeast 82nd Avenue. He initially crossed into an oncoming lane in a legal passing zone to pass a 1972 Ford F-250 pickup. When he saw Apana approaching in the oncoming lane, Dudley swerved back into the southbound lane but lost control. He overcorrected and collided with Apana, a probable cause affidavit states.
The crash caused Dudley to also hit the Ford pickup. Both Dudley and the other driver suffered minor injuries, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. The first responding fire crews pronounced Apana dead at the scene.
The computer in Dudley’s SUV showed he reached 83 mph just before the crash, and investigators found the passing lane had ended 500 feet prior. Dudley reportedly told police he was in a hurry, court records state.
Defense attorney David McDonald said reconstructions of the crash showed the Ford pickup Dudley was attempting to pass sped up to prevent him from passing. However, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith said if that was the case, Dudley should’ve slowed down and moved back behind the truck when the passing lane ended.
Judge Gregory Gonzales disagreed with comments from McDonald and statements submitted to the court on Dudley’s behalf that the crash was an accident.
“This is not a tragic event. This should have never happened. Period,” Gonzales said. “The fact that I heard you were stressed out bothers me completely. The fact that you would get emotional in front of the family bothers me. You have to be emotional — you killed somebody.”
McDonald asked the judge for a 15-month sentence, at the low end of the sentencing range. He said Dudley had only been driving for three months and that he will live with what he’s done every day. Smith recommended a mid-range sentence of 17 months. However, Gonzales opted to sentence Dudley to the high-end of the sentencing range.
After the judge encouraged him to do so, Dudley stood up, turned to Apana’s family in the courtroom and apologized.
“I know it may not mean much coming from me, but I am sincerely sorry,” he said to Apana’s wife, daughter and son.