Branch gets 7.5 years for killing cyclist
BATON ROUGE - A judge sentenced Joseph Branch to 25 years in jail for killing a cyclist in a drunk driving crash, but he will only serve about a third of it.
Judge Mike Erwin suspended all but 7.5 years of Branch's sentence for vehicular homicide Wednesday. He told Branch he was "lucky" because he could have sentenced him to more, but the victim's family agreed to the sentencing.
"I'm just relieved," Nathan Crowson's mother, Rita Wise said. "I was so weary, there never seemed to be an end to it."
A six-person jury found Branch guilty of killing Nathan Crowson in the 2012 wreck. Prosecutors said Branch had a blood alcohol level of .307 after the wreck. The crash also injured Crowson's friend and fellow cyclist Danny Morris, who told the judge in a victim impact statement that he's in constant pain and suffered neurological damage after the wreck.
"This has been the longest 3.5 years," Debbie Morris said. "I'm just glad it's over."
Erwin said Branch will also have to pay restitution to the victim's family: a $45,000 payment within the next 60 days will be split between the surviving victims and the deceased victim's 8-year-old daughter, and once out of prison he will also have to pay 25 percent of each paycheck to the victims up to a total of $250,000. He will also have an interlock device on his vehicle's ignition for the rest of his life.
Branch apologized in court Wednesday to the victims' families, promising them he would live a "good and honest life" once he gets out of jail. He said he would also work to make sure this doesn't happen again to anybody else. The surviving victim of the crash, didn't buy the sincerity of it.
"I'd probably be apologizing if I was about to go to jail for almost 10 years," Danny Morris said. "I'd be begging for forgiveness too."