WOOD COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - A man who caused a fatal traffic crash near Wisconsin Rapids while sending text messages to his girlfriend pleaded no contest Tuesday to a reduce homicide charge.
23-year-old John French, formerly of Stevens Point, struck a plea deal in Wood County Circuit Court.
French was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide in a December 2010 crash that killed 32-year-old Robert Walker of the town of Saratoga, south of Rapids.
French was texting and driving just six days after a much-heralded state law took effect banning that practice.
Attorneys on both sides agreed to ask Circuit Judge Todd Wolf for 9 years in prison and 8 years of extended supervision. French is in prison on other charges, and he was hoping to be sentenced Tuesday to be done with the case. But Wolf ordered a pre-sentence investigation, and he scheduled the proceeding for November 12th.
According to authorities, French blew past a stop sign at Highways 73 and Z when another driver tried but failed to avoid French’s SUV. His vehicle then swung and hit another SUV driven by Walker, who was ejected despite wearing a seat belt.