Joshua McNally, the truck driver who crossed over a centerline 18 months ago, causing a fatal crash that killed a middle school teacher, will serve six years in prison for manslaughter, a judge decided Monday.

At the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills sentenced McNally to 17 years, with all but six suspended, plus four years of probation. He will also serve six years concurrently on a charge of causing a death while driving on a suspended license, Mills ruled.

The crash on April 20, 2016, killed Adam Perron, a popular teacher at Lake Region Middle School and young father from Harrison. According to witnesses, the produce truck driven by McNally crossed into oncoming traffic on Route 302 in Casco and struck Perron’s car, killing him.

McNally said he doesn’t remember anything from the morning of the crash, although other drivers said they saw him driving erratically and crossing the middle of the road at least twice in the minutes preceding the crash. Both times, other vehicles – an ambulance with its lights and siren on and a large tractor-trailer – had to swerve to avoid a head-on crash.

Prosecutors and McNally’s attorneys had agreed that, in exchange for his guilty plea, McNally would have to serve no more than eight years in prison.

There’s no indication that McNally, who was driving for Native Maine Produce, was using his cellphone at the time of the crash, but Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Matt Tice said records indicated that he had made five calls in the hour before the crash, including a call 12 minutes before to a man Tice described as a dealer that McNally sometimes bought drugs from. The cellphone records also indicated that five apps on the phone were open while McNally was driving.

The crash was “a manslaughter waiting to happen,” Tice said. “Josh McNally made a number of choices that day and all of them were bad.”

Mills said she was convinced that McNally’s cellphone must have played some role in the crash and hopes that the sentence sends a message to others who drive while using a cellphone.

“It’s the new addiction,” she said. “People simply cannot put this thing away … anymore than an alcoholic can put down a bottle of gin or a heroin addict can put down a needle.”

McNally, 32, of Westbrook, had only a minor criminal record, Mills noted, but he had a spotty driving record, including a charge of passing a stopped school bus in 2004 even before he got his driver’s license. He finally got a license in 2012 and was charged with texting while driving in 2015. His license was suspended because he never showed up in court on the charge and failed to pay the fine.

Tice said McNally continued to collect unemployment benefits after getting a job at Native Maine and was abusing drugs, including heroin, Xanax, OxyContin and marijuana. Mills said the record of text messages showed that after McNally got a text message from his wife saying the couple had just 53 cents in their checking account, he texted a drug dealer, asking, “Can you get anything? I’ve got money.”

Elizabeth Perron, Adam Perron’s widow, told Mills that her husband was “kind and smart and thoughtful.”

Then she turned to McNally, who sat with his arms folded in front of him while he looked down at the table, and said, “You are a danger, plain and simple.”

Perron noted that the couple’s daughter, who recently turned 3, often asks to see her father.

Jeff Perron, Adam Perron’s father, said his mind never strays far from the day his son died.

“Every day is April 20 to me,” he told the court. “I don’t take my son off my mind.”

Jeff Perron said others may blame drugs or cellphones for causing the crash that killed his son, but he casts blame squarely on McNally.

“Joshua, this is on you,” he said. “This is how you’ve conducted your life.”

McNally told the court he was “deeply remorseful” for the crash.

“Somehow, saying I am sorry just isn’t enough,” he said. “It seems so small a gesture.”

Mills said she believed that McNally had accepted responsibility for the crash and Perron’s death, noting that he agreed to plead guilty after initially entering a plea of not guilty. That spared Perron’s family the ordeal of a trial, she said.

And, Mills said, McNally is still relatively young, which means he’s a good prospect for rehabilitation.

But she also said that aggravating factors, especially the impact on Perron’s family, outweighed those that argued for a lesser sentence.

Elizabeth Perron said she accepted the sentence handed down Monday.

Although she would have liked to see McNally go to prison for a longer term, she said, Mills explained the law and how she came up with the sentence she handed down.

Elizabeth Perron added, however, that she doesn’t think much of McNally’s expression of remorse.

Mills said she did not need to address the issue of restitution because Native Maine had reached a settlement with Elizabeth Perron. Native Maine did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465

[email protected]

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