Members of an Amish family who were ejected from their horse-drawn buggy and injured in a February hit-and-run aren’t angry with the driver of the SUV that crashed into them.
They asked a judge to make sure that 39-year-old Wonewoc resident Brian D. Daniels, who fled the scene but later was arrested and convicted of three felonies, gets the help he needs. And they wished him well.
The two parents — both of whom suffered serious injuries — also told the judge they would appreciate it if Daniels could contribute toward their hospital bills and other expenses, but only if he could afford it.
The family could not be reached for comment Thursday, but their statements to the judge are documented in Daniels’ public court file.
Sauk County District Attorney Kevin Calkins said he was struck by the family’s disposition.
“When I first saw the victim impact statements, I was taken aback by how understanding and forgiving the family was,” he said. “Their concern for Mr. Daniels’ well-being was unexpected and heartwarming.”
The mother, who suffered fractures to her clavicle, vertebrae and hip, seemed reluctant to impose a financial burden on Daniels, who didn’t have insurance when he crashed into her buggy and drove off.
“We appreciate everything he can do to help pay,” the mother wrote. “I don’t know how Mr. Daniels is sitting financially. Can he help much? Does he have a family to help him? Our church is willing to help raise a fund for part of the bills if that’s what it takes. We don’t hold anything against Mr. Daniels.”
She added that “everyone makes mistakes.”
The father also encouraged the judge to ensure Daniels gets help so he can “do good,” adding that “We all need good neighbors and friends every day.”
One of the three children wrote in her victim impact statement that she was sore the day after the crash, but would leave it to her parents to decide what to do. She concluded her statement with “Good Luck! Mr. Daniels.”
Authorities said just before 5 p.m. on Feb. 25, Daniels’ SUV struck the buggy from behind as it was traveling on the shoulder of Highway 58 in the town of Ironton.
Two adults and three children were ejected from the carriage. The adults suffered broken bones and other injuries. The children had various cuts and bruises. The horse died.
Daniels — who had three prior drunken driving convictions — fled the scene. Authorities identified him as a suspect because his license plate came off in the crash.
He turned himself in the next day and admitted to drinking five beers the day of the crash. However, Daniels denied that his alcohol consumption was a factor. He said he didn’t see the buggy as he rounded a corner because the sun was in his eyes, and fled the scene because he panicked.
Investigators suspected Daniels may have been intoxicated, but were unable to prove it because of the length of time between the crash and Daniels’ arrest.
Daniels gets jail time
In September, Daniels reached a deal with prosecutors that resulted in his conviction on three counts of felony hit-and-run involving injury.
Daniels pleaded no contest to the three felonies, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss two others. He was ordered to serve 120 days in jail with work-release privileges.
Daniels also must spend the next five years on probation, undergo treatment and pay $76,000 in restitution. If he fails to comply with terms of the deal, he could wind up back in Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Barrett’s courtroom facing additional time behind bars.
Reached by phone Thursday, Daniels said he had read the family’s victim impact statements. However, he didn’t want to comment on them.
“Yeah, my thoughts on it are what the (expletive) is it any of your business reading it?” Daniels said. “You can just write whatever you think you want to write and don’t worry about getting any information out of me. It was an accident, not anything to make a big story out of. I don’t know what your job description is, but asking me my opinion on an accident that happened seven months ago I don’t think is any of your concern.”