BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A grieving family says the punishment does not fit the crime for a driver who admitted he was drunk, speeding and going the wrong way.
Matthew Ruckdaschel was behind the wheel during last year's tragedy on the Kensington Expressway, a crash that left two people dead. Family members of two cousins killed in a drunk driving accident in January of 2011 are looking at Erie County's only two convictions, so far, under a new law that puts more teeth into DWI laws that take a life.
In their view, one involved a white drunk driver, the other, a black driver - and the outcomes were vastly different.
Relatives of Eric Anderson and Thomas Johnson were grief-stricken after the sentencing of the drunk driver who killed both men as he drove his pickup the wrong way on the Kensington Expressway with a BAC .22 percent and marijuana in his system and struck the two cousins head-on in the SUV they were riding in at nearly 80 miles-an-hour crash.
Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Ruckdaschel was sentenced to three-and-a-half to ten-and-a-half years in prison after his guilty plea for aggravated vehicular homicide.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said, "Which is a pretty serious charge. It's when you have a high level of intoxication plus multiple victims, one of which is dead. That's aggravated vehicular homicide."
Ruckdaschel was the first conviction under the aggravated vehicular homicide law in Erie County, but just last month, another conviction under the same law led to a 15-year sentence for Anthony Thompson, who struck four people, one of them a Buffalo Police officer, and left one person dead.
Relatives of Anderson and Johnson question whether race played a role in the vastly different sentences with Thompson getting 15 years and Ruckdaschel's one-fifth of that.
One family member shouted outside the courtroom, "If that had been a black man that killed a white man, they would have gave him more time. That is not fair!"
None of the victims' family would talk outside of the courtroom on camera. But Anderson's mom, Christine Anderson, told News 4 that no matter how you cut it, justice was not served by the sentence.
Sedita points out the sentences were handed out by two different judges, and the cases were different. He also insists his office handled them both the same way.
"In Ruckdaschel, the defendant has significant debilitating injuries. So I think the judge takes those factors into consideration," said Sedita.
Prosecutors suspect Ruckdashel's Army background, and the fact that he was severely injured and entered court in a wheelchair, might have also been considered in his sentence.
MORE | Previous stories on crash:
-Twenty-four-year-old Matthew Ruckdaschel, of Getzville, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in April 2012
-You can read a statement from Ruckdaschel's family , from January 2011.
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