Jeronimo sentenced to 180 days in jail, 5 years probation


Abel Domingo Jeronimo

Abel Domingo Jeronimo was sentenced in Cheyenne County District Court on Wednesday afternoon to 180 days in jail and five years of intensive supervised probation for leaving the scene of a fatal traffic crash last spring.

The 39-year-old Sidney man's driver's license was also revoked for 15 years – the maximum possible term, Judge Derek Weimer said – as part of a long list of probation terms.

Explaining the sentence, Weimer said probation would allow the court to monitor Jeronimo longer than a prison term would.

Because of mandatory release dates, the days Jeronimo served in jail following his arrest and time for good behavior – even if sentenced to the maximum prison term available for his offense – Jeronimo would likely be released in two years and with no court supervision or probation, the judge said.

Five years of probation, with strict terms, however, will allow for more accountability, Weimer said.

"With always the prospect of a maximum sentence waiting for you if you violate probation," he said.

While explaining the revocation of Jeronimo's driver's license, the judge warned him against violating the order.

"I promise you, if that's what brings you back [to court], in addition to that offense," the judge said sternly, trailing off without finishing his though.

After a pause, Weimer continued in a raised voice while looking directly at Jeronimo: "You will not operate a vehicle. You are a passenger in a car from now on. Do you understand that?"

Through a court-appointed interrupter, Jeronimo responded, "Yes."

Jeronimo's conviction stems from a vehicle crash that occurred on the morning of April 7 when he was driving in foggy conditions along U.S. Highway 385, two miles south of Dalton.

A truck pulling a boat on a trailer, driven by Martin Geiger Jr., 45, attempted to pass Jeronimo's vehicle. The two vehicles ultimately made contact, and Geiger's vehicle left the road, rolling twice, according to the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Office. Both the driver and passenger were ejected.

Geiger died of injuries from the crash and Kathy Berger sustained severe injuries.

According to witnesses, Jeronimo stopped briefly but then left without calling 911 or checking on the condition of Geiger or Berger.

A probable cause affidavit states Jeronimo told deputies he didn't have any medical training and had forgotten English – his second language – because he was so frightened.

"He recalled other vehicles stopping, so he left and went to work," the affidavit states. "He advised that since he was 'local,' he knew that law enforcement would find him."

Jeronimo pleaded guilty on June 19 to a charge of failing to stop, disclose information and render assistance in an accident involving death.

In court on Wednesday, court-appointed attorney Donald Miller said the crash was a tragedy but that his client didn't cause it.

Miller said Jeronimo was driving slowly because of the fog and low visibility when Geiger attempted to pass him.

Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub argued it was inexcusable for Jeronimo to leave the scene.

"He didn't bother to take a few seconds to call an ambulance," Schaub said. "It was cold. It is absolutely inexcusable."

As part of the probation terms, Jeronimo must wear a tracking device, check in with his probation officer twice a week, not leave Cheyenne County without prior approval and serve 200 hours of community service.

Jeronimo, who had been free on bond, was taken into custody after the hearing to serve his 180-day jail term. He was given credit for the 72 days he was held in custody following his arrest. Fifteen days of the term were ordered to be served in three-day segments – over the next five years – on the anniversary of the crash.

Following the hearing, Schaub said Jeronimo's actions on the day of the crash were unacceptable.

"I think the law is in place to avoid obstruction in accident investigations and to keep people from avoiding the responsibility that they have," he said. "You have a legal duty – and I would think you also have a moral duty. When someone's involved in an accident directly resulting in serious harm or death, you don't run away."

He said he thought the sentence in the case was well reasoned.

"I can tell you, with the family members I discussed the case with following the sentence, the consensus was that justice was done," he said.


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