A Georgetown man pleaded guilty Friday to manslaughter in the death of a passenger in a car he drove about 120 mph while drunk, but the victim’s mother objected to the recommended sentence.
In April 2016, Michael Poe, 24, crashed and flipped the Ford Mustang he was driving on Athens-Boonesboro Road. The passenger, Nick Rucker, 22, of Jessamine County, was thrown from the car and died at the scene, according to the Fayette County coroner.
Rucker was an Eastern Kentucky University student and a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He was the second Lamba Chi brother from its EKU chapter in an 11-month span to die in a car crash. Cody Garcia, a Lexington native, died in Madison County on May 12, 2015.
Rucker and his fraternity brothers accepted Garcia’s graduation diploma and Rucker told WKYT that Garcia earned his spot in the graduating class.
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"Getting up at early hours and studying into the late of the night, just to get through college the way he did was such an accomplishment," Rucker said to WKYT.
A posthumous diploma was also awarded to Rucker, which is in the possession of his mother, Diane Clift, she said Friday.
The investigation of Rucker’s death revealed Poe had been driving 120 miles per hour before the crash and was under the influence of alcohol.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and DUI. The prosecution recommended Poe serve seven years on the manslaughter conviction and 45 days for the DUI.
Poe’s sentencing hearing will be held Nov. 17.
The mother of Rucker, Diane Clift, feels the sentence recommendation is merely “a slap on the wrist” for Poe, especially considering he could get out of jail early.
“When they come in here and plead for these deals, it should mean seven years. He knows he’s eligible to appeal, get shock probation, or get parole,” Clift said. “Our sentence is a lifetime. His is not the seven he agreed to although it should be because that’s his word and he should be held to what they agreed to.”
Clift will be allowed to speak at the sentencing in November. She said she wants to be the voice for her son and make an effort to change drunk driving laws for the future.
“I want the judge to realize that these cases are not only about the defendant, it’s about the victims who are impacted for a lifetime. My family will never be the same,” she said. “I want the judge to know what has happened and it may impact his decision to make these laws stick. Lawmakers and legislators need to take heed and help out and make these stick.”