The 17-year-old Valparaiso boy who was charged as an adult after police said
that he drove a car into a semi while fleeing a detective in August 2007—an
accident in which one of his passengers died—has been sentenced to 15 years
In January Aaron Lee Phelps pleaded guilty to two of the six charges filed
against him: resisting law enforcement by use of a motor vehicle and causing
the death of another, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20
years in prison; and resisting law enforcement by use of a motor vehicle and
causing serious bodily injury to another person, a Class C felony punishable
by a term of two to eight years in prison.
Phelps was facing a maximum of 28 years in prison. On Monday Porter Circuit
Court Judge Mary Harper sentenced him to 15 years: to 18 years on the Class B
felony, three years suspended; and to seven years on the Class C felony, one
year suspended. Phelps will serve the two sentences concurrently.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune on
Tuesday that, to avoid putting the families of the victims through the rigors
of a trial, he agreed to drop four of the six charges filed against Bennett
and then further agreed to cap the sentence imposed at a maximum of 20 years,
with the Class B and Class C felony sentences to run concurrently.
Phelps will be sentenced to an adult facility somewhere in the Department of
Corrections, after Circuit Court Magistrate Edward Nemeth last year waived
him from juvenile jurisdiction into adult court. “A juvenile facility cannot
take him,” Bennett said.
Phelps will be eligible for release after serving half of his sentence, or
seven and a half years. After his release, Bennett added, Phelps will have to
serve three years of formal probation. His driver’s license will also be
suspended for five years.
Phelps had been charged as well with reckless homicide, a Class C felony;
another count of resisting law enforcement, a Class C felony; possession of
marijuana/hashish, a Class D felony; and obstructing an emergency medical
worker, a Class B misdemeanor.
According to the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, at 2:15 Aug. 8 a PCSP
detective executed a traffic stop on Phelps on Vale Park Road. As the
detective was walking toward Phelps’ vehicle, police said, Phelps rapidly
accelerated, traveling northbound on Silhavy Road and then eastbound on Vale
Park Drive at a high rate of speed. At the intersection of Ind. 49, police
said, Phelps ran a red light and collided with the side of a semi-tractor
trailer southbound on Ind. 49, his car becoming wedged between the tractor’s
rear tires and the front of the box trailer.
The detective, another officer, and EMS personnel attempted to remove Phelps
and the other three occupants of the car, police said, at which point Phelps
began fighting with rescue workers. Eventually Phelps and two of the
passengers were removed but one of them, Brandie Broussard, 16, of Metairie,
La., was trapped in the back seat behind the driver. After extrication, she
was transported to Porter hospital but she later died there.
In waiving Phelps into adult court, Nemeth noted that on three previous
occasions, Phelps had been adjudicated in juvenile court, that he continued
to re-offend while on formal probation, and that at the time of the accident
he was facing four pending charges for offenses which allegedly occurred
while he was on probation, including two counts of burglary.