ALLEN COUNTY – An Allen County judge has sentenced former Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer David Bisard to 16 years in prison. Three years are suspended, meaning Bisard will essentially spend 13 years behind bars.
Earlier this month, a jury convicted Bisard of nine counts including reckless homicide and criminal recklessness after a crash in August 2010 that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells and injured two others. Judge John Surbeck sentenced the former IMPD officer on three felony charges to be served consecutively.
Surbeck said that while Bisard showed remorse, he has not admitted he was drunk on the day of the crash. Tests showed his blood alcohol level was 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive in Indiana. Surbeck said Bisard was still angry and showed no emotion from the tragedy.
Wells’ family struggled with Bisard’s refusal to admit guilt on the alcohol-related charges.
“To hear him deny being intoxicated was probably one of the hardest things throughout the entire legal process,” said Aaron Wells, Eric Wells’ father. “After all that he has put us through, all that he has put his whole family, all that he has put the community through… to sit there and deny being drunk is pretty sad. It’s pretty sad. It tells me that unless you want the help, I don’t care what’s available for you, it’s not going to work for you.”
He continued, “Let’s hope that he gets the help that he needs and that when he comes out, he’s a better person. We can leave here with some peace in our heart that justice has been served. That’s all we asked for from the very beginning: that justice would be served.”
“I think (the judge) was very fair. This has turned our whole lives upside down,” said Eric Wells’ mother, Mary. “We have no more hearings, no more courts, no more trips that we have to come up for another disappointment. Now we can put our son to rest… in our hearts and remember the good things and we can laugh when we think about him now. And there will be less pain as far as the trial (is concerned).”
She continued, “(Bisard) will walk out, he will embrace his family. He took that away from my family and myself. We will never be able to embrace Eric again… so there is no sentence other than a life sentence that would replace my son’s life.”
The Wells family said they would not accept Bisard’s apology because the former officer wouldn’t admit that he was drunk during the crash.
“He’s mouthed to me, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t do it,'” said Aaron Wells. “There’s something that will throw you for a loop. The first time he said that to me, I liked to have fell out of my chair.”
In the sentencing statement, the court noted several mitigating circumstances in Bisard’s sentencing as presented by the defense. Those included remorse, which the court said Bisard had shown through letters written on his behalf. The court observed that Bisard appeared be “without emotion” during the proceedings. That Bisard has no criminal history was identified as a “significant mitigating circumstance. ” The defense argued that Bisard would likely respond to treatment, although the court “has given consideration but little weight” to those claims.
Bisard’s defense team said the circumstances surrounding the crash would be unlikely to reoccur. The court said Bisard would fall within the low risk category for re-offense, although declarations that Bisard had “no intention of drinking again” were contradicted by Bisard’s DUI arrest in 2013. Other mitigating circumstances put forth by the defense included family hardship, Bisard’s honorable service in the U.S. Marine Corps and his “distinguished employment and educational history.”
Aggravating circumstances included the death of Eric Wells and the extensive injuries and suffering of Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills, which were “in excess of that defined or required by the elements of the offense and constitute and aggravating circumstance.” Other aggravating factors included Bisard’s failure to seek treatment for alcohol dependence, his April 2013 DUI crash and arrest, and the abuse of police power and breach of public trust.
According to the sentencing statement, “the court finds that aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances warranting the imposition of an enhanced cumulative sentence and consecutive sentences among various counts.” The court also said probation is warranted once Bisard is out and that he should get treatment for alcohol and mental health issues.
Bisard’s attorney, John Kautzman, said a decision on an appeal would be made closer to the appeal deadline.
“The court has made its ruling and now we move forward,” Kautzman said.
The sentencing hearing included testimony from Eric Wells’ family and crash victims Weekly and Mills. Earlier, a defense expert said Bisard needs “extensive treatment” for alcohol-related issues when he is sentenced to the Department of Correction and suggested that short-term incarceration with intensive alcohol treatment would be appropriate.