The man who killed two young women and critically injured a third in a June drunken-driving crash was sentenced Tuesday to serve 25 years.
South Central District Judge David Reich said he hoped the sentence he gave Jordan Morsette would serve as a deterrent.
"I don't doubt that Morsette didn't intend this to happen," Reich said. "It does still involve choice."
Shayna Monson, who was critically injured in the crash and returned home recently after several months in a rehab facility, was guided by her mom to the witness stand.
"I'm the only one that survived," she said with stilted speech. "I hope others learn from this accident and don't drink and drive."
Her mom, Connie Monson, stood by her side.
"No parent should ever have to watch their child go through the things that she has gone through," Connie Monson said.
About 50 people, many carrying tissues and wrapped in each others arms, filled the courtroom.
Morsette's attorney, Jodi Colling, said she reviewed all of the evidence, including video, autopsies and victim impact statements, with Morsette. She said he struggles with depression and anxiety and was self-medicating with alcohol at the time of the accident. He wants help and needs treatment, she said.
Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Gabrielle Goter said Morsette received court-ordered treatment before the accident. He made a series of choices before and after he got in the car, she emphasized.
Reich called Morsette's mental health problems "more of an explanation than an excuse."
"I just want to say I'm sorry," Morsette said. "I hope everyone can forgive me."
Morsette, then 28, crashed his pickup head on into Shayna Monson’s car while driving the wrong way on the Bismarck Expressway.
Morsette pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide for the deaths of 21-year-old Taylor Goven and 22-year-old Abby Renschler and one count of criminal vehicular injury for the injury to 22-year-old Shayna Monson in April.
Because this was Morsette's second DUI, he faced a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 45.
The exact breakdown of Morsette's sentence is 20 years with 10 suspended for a five-year probation period on each of the homicide counts and five years on the injury count. Reich ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.
There is no minimum term that Morsette will need to serve, Pat Bohn, clerk of the parole board said. The board will evaluate the case within three months and set an initial review date.
Morsette will be evaluated for addiction and mental health problems and assigned appropriate treatment in prison. He is not allowed to contact the victims.
"I feel justice has been served," Connie Monson said after the hearing.
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