Truck driver gets life in prison for DUI charge and fatal crash

According to the judge, the truck driver, "by his decisions, weaponized a commercial vehicle."

On Friday a Florida judge sentenced truck driver Michael Phillips to life in prison for DUI charge, and for the fatal crash that killed two Naples women.

Phillips was found guilty of these charges in 2011.

Circuit Court Judge Marcus Ezelle sentenced Michael John Phillips, 52, to life in prison plus 15 years for DUI manslaughter in the deaths of Jennifer Jenkins, 35, and Kathleen O’Callaghan, 34, according to Naples News.

The two women were driving to Orlando for a friend’s birthday when the crash occurred.

Dan Jenkins was following in a second vehicle, the couple’s 2-month-old daughter with him. They were uninjured.

In August, Phillips could have been sentenced 25 years in prison; however, 8 family members and friends of the victims gave statements to the judge requesting that Ezelle impose the maximum penalty of life in prison.

Not only did the judge decide that life in prison was just, he also added a 15-year sentence on top of it for one count of DUI manslaughter.

Family members of the truck driver were present at the hearing, but they and Phillips did not talk nor did the family members speak to the press.

In Florida, judges must sentence defendants based on a score tabulated in a pre-sentence investigation.

“Phillips’ score was 364.4. Had it been 363 or lower, a life sentence would not have been an option. Factors that boosted his score included drug arrests dating 30 years, a refused drug test while free on bond in this case and then absconding on that bond, which delayed the case for several months while authorities searched for him.”

Phillip’s defense attorney Kelley Collier asked Ezelle for a lesser sentence because he was just over 363 points.

Phillips also tested positive for methamphetamine, what he says is the contributing factor to the accident. He supposedly fell asleep at the wheel.

He does not have a conscious recollection of the accident,” Collier told Ezelle.

Ezelle said the fact that Phillips didn’t intend to cause the crash wasn’t relevant. The manslaughter conviction, by its nature, presumes the guilty party didn’t premeditate the crime, according to Naples News.

According to Ezelle, “Mr. Phillips, by his decisions, weaponized a commercial vehicle.”

Phillip’s attorney stated that he plans to appeal the conviction – that an expert testimony that swayed the judgment should have been disallowed at trial.

Friday’s sentencing occurred just two days shy of the fifth anniversary of those charges being formally filed in court.