Mitchell man gets seven years for second-degree manslaughter
Dylan Thompson was given a 10-year prison sentence with three years suspended for knocking Richard "Rick" Sanders unconscious at a Mitchell bar last year, inflicting injuries that caused Sanders' death.
A Mitchell man was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for causing injuries that led to a man's death one year ago.
Dylan Thompson, 27, had pleaded no contest to second-degree manslaughter in October for knocking Richard "Rick" Sanders to the ground multiple times on Jan. 3, 2019, at Thirsty's Bar in Mitchell. Sanders, 59, died in hospice five days later in Sioux Falls.
"This is a horrible tragedy. A preventable tragedy. No matter what I do today, I cannot bring Mr. Sanders back for his family and friends," Judge Chris Giles said Thursday morning during Thompson's sentencing hearing at the Davison County Courthouse.
Giles said he decided to suspend three years from a 10-year prison sentence — the maximum sentence allowed for a conviction of second-degree manslaughter, a Class 4 felony — to allow the court leverage to ensure Thompson pays restitution for Sanders' hospice care and funeral expenses and Davison County's prosecution costs.
As conditions of the suspended time, Thompson will be required to undergo an alcohol evaluation and comply with treatment recommendations, as well as to complete anger management counseling. In addition to more than $6,000 in total restitution, Thompson was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $106.50 in court costs.
"I am sincerely, truly sorry, from the bottom of my heart," Thompson said, turning to face Sanders' family in the courtroom.
Prior to sentencing, members of Sanders' family and friends and family of Thompson testified.
"Everyone on both sides is sad, very very sad. It's all because of you," Sanders' sister, Barbara Sanders, said to Thompson before addressing his family members. "The big difference is, your loved one is still here ... Whatever the sentence is, you can always see him. You can always talk to him. We will never be able to talk to (Rick) again."
Sanders' son, Levi Sanders, recounted his children saying that they wished their grandfather had been there when they won a hockey championship and went pheasant hunting.
"In general, I don't understand how we got here," said Sanders' daughter, Crystal Nutt. "Your choices ended the life of my dad, who was the grandfather to my three young kids. Last January, they were 6, 5 and 2. They'll be lucky if they have memories of him."
Giles said video footage of the altercation between Sanders and Thompson showed Thompson appearing to be angry with Sanders multiple times over the course of the night, and Barbara Sanders said it showed Thompson knocking Sanders off of a bar stool and later knocking him to the ground without physical provocation from Sanders.
Sanders' sister and children said that while they forgave Thompson, with a criminal record dating back to his teenage years and largely involving alcohol, they felt a significant penitentiary sentence would be necessary for Thompson make changes to turn his life around.
"You need to control yourself. You need stronger counseling than you've had. I do pray that this criminal offense finally wakes you up," Barbara Sanders said. "You must spend time in the penitentiary, because you've had chance and chance and chance, and you've done nothing with it."
Those who testified on Thompson's behalf, including his sister, stepfather and employer, said Thompson's sobriety would be best served with continued counseling, being around family and getting the opportunity to be a good father to his son and another child expected to be born in March. All touted Thompson as a loyal, hardworking person who had been deeply affected since Sanders' death.
"I know that his actions and choices that night don't show all of that, but our family has unfortunately witnessed that alcohol can be a demon," said Lacy Bechen, Thompson's sister.
"Unfortunately, that's not why we're here today," said Barbara Sanders after the defense's witnesses had finished testifying. "We're here today because my brother was killed. It doesn't matter how nice you are. It doesn't matter how kind and loyal you are."
Thompson was remanded to the custody of the Davison County Sheriff's Office following sentencing.