Angela Goebel, 41, the woman who hit a 6-year-old girl as she was getting off the school bus in February was found guilty on five counts of negligent operation of a vehicle on Tuesday, Nov. 19 and will serve 18 months in the Lafayette County Jail as well as three years probation.
Goebel was found guilty of the five counts of negligent operation of a vehicle, which are class A misdemeanors. Goebel was sentenced by Judge William Johnston to serve nine months in the Lafayette County Jail each for counts 1 and 2, making her total jail time 18 months.
Goebel was also sentenced to serve nine months in jail for counts 3, 4 and 5, although the jail time for those three counts was imposed and stayed, meaning that as of right now Goebel does not have to serve that time in jail, but if she violates her three year probation in any way, she will have to go back and serve the additional 27 months for counts 3, 4 and 5.
On Feb. 4, 2013 Goebel attempted to pass, on the shoulder, a legally stopped Black Hawk School bus that had its red flashing lights activated and its stop arm extended in front of the Schultz residence, as well as a vehicle that was stopped behind the bus, waiting for the bus to discharge its occupants.
As Goebel was traveling down the shoulder of the road next to the bus, she struck the child and completely ran her over. Two of the child’s siblings were held back and prevented from exiting the bus, by the bus driver, or they too may have been hit. They both witnessed their younger sister getting run over.
The child sustained serious injuries, including a broken pelvis and lacerated liver, as a result of the accident and was medflighted to Madison for medical procedures, confined to a wheelchair for two months and was not able to attend school for 10 weeks, according to the victim impact statement.
According to Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker, who represented the state in this case, it is unknown if the child will have long term or permanent damage resulting from these injuries.
According to the criminal complaint, Goebel claimed to have hit a slushy spot on the road and attempted to stop, but could not do so. This is in contrast to what witnesses at the scene as well as Lafayette County Sheriff’s deputies who investigated the scene had said, according to Riniker.
The driver of a car that was traveling behind Goebel at the time of the accident said she did not see brake lights from Goebel’s car and deputies examined the accident scene and found the pavement of the road to be dry and clear, according to the criminal complaint.
Although Goebel was charged and sentenced for misdemeanors in this case, she was originally charged with one count of 2nd degree reckless injury, which is a class F felony, punishable by up to a $25,000 fine or up to 12 and a half years imprisonment.
That was then dropped to a class I felony of reckless driving causing great bodily harm, a lesser charge, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine or three and a half years imprisonment.
Finally during the plea and sentencing hearing that took place on Tuesday, Nov. 19 Riniker presented a sentencing recommendation that called for Goebel to be charged with the five counts of negligent operation of a vehicle with 9 months in jail for each count, but to have all of the jail time imposed and stayed and to have Goebel serve 6 months in jail.
Goebel pleaded “no contest” to each of the five counts, leading the court to declare her guilty. By law Goebel could face a maximum penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to nine months in jail for each count of negligent operation of a vehicle, although Riniker only recommended that the 6 months be served total.
However, Judge Johnston was not of the same mind as Riniker. Judge Johnston said that the misdemeanors “seemed to be way undercharged for the facts of the case” and the fact that the charge was dropped from a serious felony to a mild felony and then finally to misdemeanors was “discomforting.”
Riniker stated that she worked to find a reasonable disposition for the entire case and that the reasoning behind the reduction in severity of charges was due to the fact that Goebel works in the healthcare field as a CNA and a felony would jeopardize her employment.
Riniker also explained that she didn’t feel she would have gotten a prison sentence for this particular crime. “I don’t think there’s any way Ms. Goebel would get prison time in this case,” she said.
Brian and Jill Schultz, the parents of the victim, were present in the courtroom on Tuesday and had also sent a letter expressing their disappointment that the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor as they thought it should have been a felony. The letter was presented to the court.
“I have a hard time seeing the misdemeanors on this, but I accepted the pleas because I don’t have much of a choice,” said Johnston. “This is the grossest case of negligent driving I have ever encountered in my time on the bench,” he added.
Johnston gave Goebel the opportunity to speak and to give the victims some answers to the question “Why?”. She declined. Her lawyer, Rodney Kimes said of his client, “There’s nothing we can do to take back that moment in time, but she’s a decent lady, she’s been in the community for years and she’s just very nervous.”
Goebel was also ordered by the court to pay restitution to the victim’s family in the amount of $1,725.04 as well as $946 for court costs combined with a $550 fine.
Judge Johnston also felt that it was necessary to take Goebel’s license away for two years. “I think justice cries out for it,” he said. Attorney Kimes questioned if the statute allowed the judge to take Goebel’s driving privileges. Johnston responded by inviting the attorneys to research the matter and brief it to the court as soon as possible.
Goebel was taken into custody immediately following the court hearing to begin serving her 18-month sentence, during which she will get work and medical release.