AUGUSTA — A Manchester driver will spend 16 months behind bars for abandoning his seriously injured friend trapped inside a crashed pickup in June 2011.

Richard L. Harrison, 44, was sentenced Friday to four years in prison, with all but the initial 16 months suspended, and two years of probation.

Conditions of probation ban him from using alcohol and illegal substances.

The sentence Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court followed a one-day jury trial held earlier in the week during which Harrison was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury to a person.

Investigators said Harrison and his passenger, Danny Willett, then 47, of Augusta, had been drinking at a Winthrop bar. The crash occurred about 1 a.m. June 5, 2011, on U.S. Route 202 near Pine Knoll Road.

A passing driver found Willett about four hours later inside the pickup, which had rolled over, and Willett was taken by helicopter to the hospital.

“The only good news is that (Willett) didn’t die that night. Mr. Harrison abandoned his friend that night in 2011 and abandoned him at trial,” Justice Nancy Mills said at the sentencing hearing, in apparent reference to her earlier statement that Harrison either wasn’t telling the truth about his actions after the crash or had been too drunk to see that Willett was injured.

“He appears to be emotionally bankrupt with regard to what happened to his so-called best friend,” Mills said.

She noted that Willett testified during the trial that the head injuries he suffered in the crash prevented him from resuming his previous full-time employment and left him with vision and other continuing problems.

“I want to apologize to Mr. Willett,” Harrison said Friday. “I was hoping he would be here today. I’m sorry about the position he’s in. I’d like to apologize to the court and to Mr. Willett for the whole situation.”

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney David Spencer, had urged a sentence of up to four years with no more than 12 months suspended.

Defense Attorney Kevin Sullivan said Harrison did not realize that Willett was seriously hurt.

“What my client saw was a person who was very intoxicated,” Sullivan told the judge at the sentencing hearing.

Mills said among the factors she considered in structuring the sentence was the fact that Harrison fled the scene on an indirect route by hiking through the woods back to his home “and began drinking, which everyone knows is a highly successful way around an OUI charge.”

Police later located Harrison in his motel room on U.S. 202.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]

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