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Man gets prison time for drunken crash that killed brother

LAKE ANDES -- The pain of being responsible for his brother's death in a drunken driving crash was enough punishment for 26-year-old Albert Fischer. That's what attorneys agreed upon Monday before Fischer was sentenced to spend 60 days in the sta...

Albert Fischer, of Lake Andes, walks out of the Charles Mix County Courtroom on Monday morning in Lake Andes. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Albert Fischer, of Lake Andes, walks out of the Charles Mix County Courtroom on Monday morning in Lake Andes. (Matt Gade / Republic)

LAKE ANDES - The pain of being responsible for his brother's death in a drunken driving crash was enough punishment for 26-year-old Albert Fischer.

That's what attorneys agreed upon Monday before Fischer was sentenced to spend 60 days in the state penitentiary during a hearing in the Charles Mix County Courthouse. 

Fischer, of Lake Andes, attempted to speak to the tear-filled courtroom full with his family members, but he was overcome by grief.

Judge Bruce Anderson described the April 26, 2016, one-vehicle rollover crash like a "2-by-4 right upside the head," for Fischer. Twenty-two-year-old James Fischer, of Lake Andes, died.

The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. on Highway 50, northwest of Wagner. Fischer was sentenced for a hit-and-run causing death - a Class 6 felony that holds a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine - and first-offense driving under the influence, punishable upon conviction by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

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Fischer was given a suspended two-year prison sentence and was ordered to enter and complete five years of probation. The judge ordered that Fischer serve 60 days in the penitentiary, but because of his job, Fischer will begin serving the sentence on Sept. 15.

For the first-offense DUI conviction, Anderson gave Fischer a suspended 30-day jail sentence. Fischer will also be responsible to pay court fines, cost and any court-appointed attorney charges.

Anderson explained during the hearing that Fischer finally "figured it out," noting that he has not had an alcohol or drug violation for the past year while on bond.

Fischer was initially charged with vehicular homicide, but the charge was reduced to hit-and-run causing death or injury after a crime-scene reconstructionist, hired by the defense, asked to see the vehicle and found it had already been crushed, according to Deputy Charles Mix County State's Attorney Scott Podhradsky. Vehicular homicide holds a maximum penalty upon conviction of up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

When asked for a recommended sentence, Podhradsky told the judge that because of the mishap with the vehicle crushed, and the death of Fischer's brother, he "didn't know what justice calls for."

"Mr. Fischer does know that he lost his younger brother's life ..." Podhradksy said. "As far as punishment, I don't know what weighs more than that."

Fischer was represented by attorney Tim Whalen, who agreed with Podhradksy that the loss of Fischer's brother serves as a punishment in itself.

Whalen added that it comes down to the family, who were present at the sentencing Monday morning.

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"He lost his brother. I don't know how else to address it. This hits home," Whalen said. "... His life as a young man, drinking and goofing around, is done - and it ended in a horrific way."

Prosecutors also filed a habitual offender charge, which increases the maximum penalty of other charges, against Fischer because he was convicted of third-degree burglary in 2012. That charge was dismissed since Fischer maintained sobriety since the crash.

"I hate to see it come to this," Judge Anderson said to Fischer just moments before ordering the sentence. "But I think you finally figured it out."

Following the April 2016 crash, Fischer was taken to Wagner Hospital, where a preliminary breath test allegedly revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.173 percent. The legal limit to drive in South Dakota in 0.08 percent.

Related Topics: CRIME
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