By Jared Ritz
A Box Elder woman who pleaded guilty to negligent vehicular assault in June was sentenced Monday to a three-year deferred sentence in state District Court.
Melissa Moran, 27, will serve three years of probation. If she violates the terms of her deferred sentence anytime during that three-year period, she can be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years and fined a maximum of $10,000.
Her sentence stems from a Nov. 17 crash on U.S. Highway 87 that sent Sarah Parisian, a 71-year-old Box Elder woman, to the hospital. At the time of the accident, Parisian was being driven to Northern Montana Hospital for kidney dialysis.
Moran had fallen asleep at the wheel, allowing her vehicle to drift into the oncoming lane and strike the van in which Parisian was a passenger, prosecutors said. Her blood alcohol content was above the legal limit for driving.
Parisian suffered a broken leg, a broken rib and internal bleeding during the crash, her daughter, Donna Coltrain, 53, said several days after the accident.
After Parisian underwent medical tests at Northern Montana Hospital, she was transported to Great Falls, where she died the day after the crash.
Assistant Hill County Attorney Cyndee Faus said today that Moran was charged with negligent vehicular assault because the doctors "could not tell us the vehicle crash is what caused her death."
In a written statement after her sentencing, Moran noted that she was charged with vehicular assault, not vehicular homicide, because the accident didn't cause Parisian's death.
"I am very sorry that I caused injury to Ms. Parisian, but I am thankful that I am not to blame for her death."
Assistant Hill County Attorney Cyndee Faus said her office entered into a plea agreement with Moran and was happy with the court's decision to honor it.
Faus said members of the victim's family requested a harsher sentence, but prosecutors didn't feel that it was appropriate.
"That is just not what our evidence pointed to," Faus said about a harsher sentence. "We don't think three years' deferred is a light sentence."
If Moran complies with the usual conditions of probation, as well as the added condition that she not drive for any reason other than medical, work, or to get family provisions, her conviction will be wiped off of her record.