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Emotions run high at fatal car accident sentencing

A tearful Detroit retiree who never had a traffic violation sentenced to 10 months in jail for causing a fatal car crash.

A distraught Fraser father who says he can’t forgive, but who – with his family – now starts the next chapter of life without a son.

And a Macomb County Circuit Court judge who walked from the bench into the galley of her courtroom to talk to the victim’s identical twin brother who survived the fatal crash.

That was the emotional scene that played out today at the sentencing of Ronald Haggen in the death of Ryan Roberts last year.

Judge Mary Chrzanowski also asked to see Roberts’ picture and said that she would pray for his family to find peace.

In an unusual move, Chrzanowski stepped down from the bench before sentencing Haggen, 67, to 10 months in the Macomb County Jail starting Monday and five years’ probation. She slipped into the front row of spectator seats and stood before Roberts’ twin brother, Drew, 22, who was driving the car that Haggen rear-ended a short distance from the brothers’ Fraser home, killing Ryan.

“You have to live your life not thinking this was your fault,” Chrzanowski told him, pointing at his shoulder and telling him that his brother was sitting on his shoulder. “You can’t let this eat at you.”

“I’ll try,” Drew Roberts told her.

After returning to the bench, Chrzanowski said the person she was most concerned about was Drew Roberts.

“That is what has affected me. That young man has blamed himself and that should not be,” she said.

Haggen pleaded no contest to homicide-manslaughter with a motor vehicle last month. His attorney, Warren Harris, said Haggen suffered a diabetic attack while driving Aug. 2 on Hayes near 15 Mile in Fraser. Haggen had some alcohol in his system, but his blood-alcohol level was 0.04%. For drunken driving in Michigan, the mark is 0.08%.

The twins were on their way to see a movie when they were stopped for a red light, waiting to turn, and their car was hit by Haggen’s car, which was traveling more than 80 m.p.h. in the seconds before the impact.

Haggen, who uses a walker, was allowed to sit for his sentencing. But when he spoke, he stood. In an emotional, broken voice, he said he didn’t mean to do anything and that he was a good man.

“I am so, so sorry,” he said through tears and turning to nearly two dozen members of Roberts’ family, many of whom also cried.

Haggen’s wife, who was allowed to speak, and other supporters also were in the courtroom.

Barry Roberts spoke on behalf of his family, proudly talking about Ryan as an athlete and recent college graduate. He recalled telling his sons to be careful when they left for the movies; how he now goes miles out of his way to avoid the accident scene, and how people they have known for years have avoided them, not knowing what to say.

“I wake up every morning about the same time. I go into his room. I go to work, my office. I look at his picture,” Barry Roberts said.

That’s when Chrzanowski said she would love to see Ryan’s picture and asked if someone had one.

Barry Roberts then turned to Haggen, said he couldn’t mince words and looked him in the eye. He told Haggen that he couldn’t forgive him and that people have told him that Haggen is remorseful.

“In time, I’ll accept that,” Barry Roberts said, adding that what happened to him and his family “has changed our lives forever.”

Contact Christina Hall: chall99@freepress.com

Article source: http://www.freep.com/article/20130228/NEWS04/130228072/Ryan-Roberts-Ronald-Haggen-Mary-Chrzanowski-drunken-driving-accident

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