A 41-year-old driver in western Wisconsin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving count and was sentenced to probation for crashing his pickup truck into an Amish buggy and killing one of two teenage brothers on board.
Anthony R. Anderson, of Rice Lake, was sentenced in Barron County Circuit Court last week in connection with the crash on Feb. 18, 2021, near Rice Lake that killed 17-year-old Levi Miller. His 16-year-old brother, Joseph Miller, was injured.
The pickup hit the buggy after dark from behind, despite the horse-drawn vehicle having operating rear lights, the Sheriff's Office said.
Anderson was taken to a clinic in Marshfield, where his blood alcohol content was measured at 0.085%, above the legal limit for driving in Wisconsin, according to prosecutors.
Anderson was initially charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and related counts, but those were dismissed and replaced with two misdemeanor drunken driving counts. One of those was dropped upon sentencing.
Judge J. Michael Bitney's sentence set aside a six-month jail term for Anderson and put him on probation for two years. The judge did order Anderson incarcerated for five days and said it could be served while on electronic home monitoring.
Bitney also revoked Anderson's driver's license for one year and ordered that he "must maintain absolute sobriety."
District Attorney Brian Wright said Thursday that "the family on five or six occasions said this is what they wanted" for Anderson's sentence.
Wright said Anderson "is very fortunate that the family looked at the case the way they did" and turned to forgiveness, a core tenet of the Amish faith.
"He was generally remorseful, [and] the judge saw in him what the family saw in him," the district attorney said.
In a statement issued on the day of sentencing, Wright said: "Vehicle/buggy crashes have become an all too frequent occurrence in Wisconsin and nationwide. ... The death of [Levi Miller] is a somber reminder of how important it is for motorists, particularly on rural roads and highways in Barron County, to remain attentive at all time for the presence of Amish buggies."
State court records show that Anderson was convicted of drunken driving less than 18 months before the crash.
According to the District Attorney's Office:
Anderson called 911 about 6:40 p.m. from the scene in Oak Grove Township and said he struck the buggy. A deputy arrived and saw the buggy wreckage and its horse dead on the side of the road. He also saw the buggy's strobe light, still blinking, in the ditch.
Joseph Miller said he and his brother were heading home with all lights working on their buggy.
Levi Miller was taken by ambulance to an Eau Claire hospital and died Feb. 24.
Servers at V&M Bar north of Rice Lake told authorities that Anderson was drinking there for about two hours in the time leading up to the crash.
Anderson was driving a mile or two above the 55 mile per hour speed limit, and light snow was falling at the time.