Columbus Police officer Christopher Anderson said he can live with the six-year prison sentence given Monday to Damien Toliver.
But Anderson and others also have to live with the physical therapy, scars and damage done. Around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2007, Toliver was driving north in the southbound lane of Interstate 185 when he struck Anderson's motorcycle and another car, sending one man into a coma for nine days.
"I'll be facing this for the rest of my life," said Anderson, who has since gone from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches. "I know there's no luck involved in this situation. There's a higher power."
Toliver, 27, pleaded guilty before Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Allen to four counts of driving under the influence, driving on the wrong side of the roadway, serious injury by vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident.
Prosecutors said he hit Anderson on I-185 near the Buena Vista Road overpass and continued to the Macon Road underpass, where he struck a Honda Accord driven by Christopher Marvets, 22, and carrying passenger Ryan McGurk, 20.
The two men had been discussing whether to attend the Country's Midnight Express run or go somewhere else when Marvets said he saw Toliver's car.
"I swerved and got hit," Marvets said. "I tried to wake (McGurk up). I don't remember after that."
McGurk said he wished Toliver had gotten a harsher sentence, saying he and his friend could have died. Outside the courtroom after the hearing McGurk pulled up his pants' leg, revealing the scars left by a tire rim that smashed through the car and into him. He lifted his chin and pointed to a scar, saying he didn't know the cause of that one.
Toliver, Marvets said, never tried to brake his car. Senior Assistant District Attorney Lew Barrow said Toliver didn't have his headlights on.
Attorney Leah Madden, who represents Toliver, said her client had only one beer that night. A Columbus resident for only a few months, Toliver wasn't familiar with the area and that there may not have been a street sign directing drivers when he turned onto the highway, Madden said.
"He just panicked," Madden said. "He wasn't sure what happened."
Madden asked for 10 years' probation for her client, though Barrow requested eight years' incarceration, followed by seven years of probation. Barrow said Toliver has a previous DUI conviction on his record, and he didn't stop when he hit Anderson and kept going until the wreck involving Marvets and McGurk. Barrow added that two officers had to hold Toliver upright at the scene because he was so drunk.
Allen sentenced Toliver to six years in prison, followed by nine years' probation.
"I just want to tell the victims I'm sorry about what happened," Toliver said. "If I could, I would take it back. I should have stopped."
Allen said the offenses weren't the worst result from a DUI, but were close to it. "They could be dead, and he's got a DUI from before," the judge said. "I can't under these circumstances not send him to jail."
Toliver must report to the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office on July 14. After the sentencing, his mother fell unconscious, and EMS personnel were called to the seventh floor of the Government Center and carried her out on a gurney.