CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Englewood's Police Chief said a judge's decision to reduce the sentence of a drunk driver who hit and killed one of his officers was focused on the defendant and not the victim.
“I’m having a hard time wrapping my hands around this,” said Chief John Collins. “I know it was only six months, (reduction) but for those that who thought 10 years was not enough it’s symbolic.”
Collins made the comment Friday, after District Court Judge Marilyn Leonard Antrim decided to reduce Conner Dononhue’s sentence, allowing him to become eligible for a prison rehabilitation program.
“Prison offers him little or nothing,” the judge said. “He can’t get counseling there for his additions… the only benefit is it allows him to believe that he has atoned for his crimes.”
Donohue was behind the wheel of the car that hit and killed Officer Jeremy Bitner on Memorial Day 2012. The 30-year-old officer was on the side of the road for a traffic stop near the intersection of West Belleview Ave. and South Broadway when he and another driver were hit.
The other driver survived, but Bitner died.
Donohue kept driving after the collision, but was pulled over and arrested three miles away.
Prosecutors said he had a blood alcohol content of .252 about 90 minutes after the crash.
Investigators say Donohue initially described the crash as “nicking the car.”
He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of an accident causing death, leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury and driving under the influence.
Today, Donohue told the judge “I can’t blame my poor decision on alcohol alone.”
He said he wants an opportunity to serve the community and prevent drunk driving from happening again.
District Attorney George Brauchler also commented after the hearing, saying he respected the judge but would have preferred that she stick with the original sentence.
"Colorado law is broken in this area," Brauchler said. "People would face more mandatory prison time breaking someone's nose in a bar fight than they would running over a police officer leaving that bar drunk."
Donohue was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide. He was also sentenced to serve a consecutive two-year sentence for leaving a scene causing serious body injury and DUI.
After the reduction, Donohue will now serve a total of 9-and-one-half years instead of a total of ten.