Mentor Man Convicted Of Vehicular Manslaughter, Not Aggravated Vehicular Homicide
Judge Eugene Lucci sentenced Alexander Ochaba to 90 days in jail, the maximum possible punishment for the crime
Alexander Ochaba was led from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas in handcuffs Friday morning.
However, because of the jury's decision, he was able to avoid what could have been a much longer sentence behind bars.
After a week-long trial, including a full day of deliberating, the jury decided that Ochaba, 25, of Mentor, was not guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Instead, they convicted him of vehicular manslaughter, as well as a trio of traffic crimes -- reckless operation, operating without reasonable control and speeding.
The difference between vehicular homicide and manslaughter is whether or not the jury believed Ochaba engaged in reckless behavior that he should have reasonably known to be a threat to others.
Ochaba was driving his motorcycle when he lost control of it while driving east on Mentor Avenue in Willoughby near Andrews-Osborne Academy.
Both he and his motorcycle went off the road onto the sidewalk and his bike hit 76-year-old Sylvia Iwaszko in the back of her legs.
The crash happened on the evening of Aug. 23, 2011. Iwaszko died eight days later in MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
Police testified that Ochaba was driving at least 72 mph in a 35-mph zone when the crash occurred.
Ochaba claimed, during his testimony, that a black sedan cut him off and caused him to crash.
Had Ochaba been convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, he would have faced up to three years in prison. By contrast, the most Ochaba could receive for vehicular manslaughter was 90 days in jail.
Lake County Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci sentenced Ochaba to 90 days in jail. He also suspended his driver's license for three years and ordered him to repay the Iwaszko family for her medical and funeral costs.
The Iwaszko family estimated that those expenses were about $500,000.
Lucci granted Ochaba work release during his jail stay.
"You'll need to work to pay the restitution," Lucci said.
Ochaba's jail term began immediately.
"Sylvia doesn't get to spend Christmas with her family. You don't get to spend Christmas with yours," Lucci said.
During the sentencing hearing, Sandy Iwaszko, Sylvia's daughter, noted that Ochaba had three previous convictions for speeding and one for driving while drunk.
"This is not his first time doing this," she said. "It's a pattern that has escalated to taking someone's life."
Michelle Wells, also Sylvia's daughter, said Ochaba should have known better than to speed.
"I don't think the young man knowingly went out to kill someone, but the ripple effect is my mother won't be here for Christmas," she said. "My family has been robbed and my mother has been robbed since he chose to drive at that high rate of speed."
Alexander Wells, Sylvia's grandmother, told Ochaba, "I want you to learn from this and carry it with you for the rest of your life."
Ochaba apologized to the Iwaszko family during the hearing.
"I'm sorry this happened," he said. "If there was anything I could have done, I would have done it. Please believe me. I would have done anything to prevent this if I would have seen her there."