By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Christian Heller Jr. was wheeled out of the courthouse, sobbing, before a sentence was handed down Wednesday to the man who made him a paraplegic.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Teddy Hartley sentenced Timothy Walton, 46, to the maximum of three years in prison for driving while intoxicated and causing great bodily injury to Heller.
“It was just too irritating to look at him,” Heller, 25, said of being in the same room as Walton.
Walton pleaded guilty to the charges, which stemmed from a July 2004 two-vehicle accident. Heller was in his vehicle at a red light on Prince Street off 21st Street, when Walton rear-ended him at a high rate of speed. Heller’s spinal cord was severed and his vehicle demolished, said 9th Judicial District Attorney Fred Van Soelen at Wednesday’s hearing. Van Soelen said Walton’s blood alcohol level after the accident was tested at 0.19, more than twice the legal limit.
With a crimson flower in her golden hair, Walton’s daughter, Natalie, 19, told Hartley that her father didn’t mean to hurt Heller. She said through tears that she loves Walton and he’s a good man.
Heller’s mother, Regina Heller, told the court her son can’t have children now.
“He can’t have normal adult relations. He wanted a family,” she said.
But Heller and his fiancee, Nichole Sanchez, will consider adoption, they said outside the courthouse.
After deliberating for 10 minutes, Hartley handed down the sentence.
“This is not a good-person, bad-person thing,” Hartley said. “There are serious consequences, for serious acts.”
Hartley told Walton that though he didn’t intend to hurt Heller, he did intend to drink. This sentence is part of the consequence of drinking and driving, he said.
Walton’s attorney, Thomas Harden, told the court that Walton feels guilty for his actions.
Hartley told Walton, “Maybe after three years (in jail) you’ll feel less guilty.”
Hartley said Walton’s family can drive Walton to the Department of Corrections central intake facility at Los Lunas before noon on Friday.
Heller’s calves swelled in tan slippers held up by the stirrups of his wheelchair.
“I don’t forgive him (Walton),” Heller said from outside the courthouse.