A 20-year-old Gilmer man was placed on 10 years “deferred adjudication” probation Friday after pleading guilty to manslaughter in connection with a Dec. 30 pickup crash that killed his 18-year-old male passenger.
Benjamin Lee Powers was sentenced by 115th District Judge Lauren Parish, according to a statement released Monday by Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd’s office. Neither drugs nor alcohol were involved in the incident, which was basically a “young man in a rage driving recklessly,” Byrd said.
Powers, 19 at the time of the accident, was originally charged with felony criminally negligent homicide in the death of Caderrius Deshaw Green of Gilmer. But the charge was upgraded to manslaughter “based on evidence the investigation showed,” Byrd said at the time Powers was indicted on the manslaughter charge several months ago.
“Deferred adjudication” means no final conviction will appear on Powers’ record if he successfully completes probation. However, when such probation is revoked, the defendant can be sentenced to the maximum term for the offense, which is 20 years in prison for manslaughter.
In that event, Powers would have to serve 10 years before becoming eligible for parole, because the pickup was determined to be a “deadly weapon,” Byrd said.
Green died when a westbound Ford F-250 pickup driven by Powers overturned several times on FM 49 about one mile west of Gilmer, ejecting Green from the vehicle before it rolled over him, authorities said. Powers and another passenger, 17-year-old Cody Garcia of Gilmer, escaped injury in the nighttime accident, said investigating Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brandon Love.
The indictment alleged Powers was “passing a motor vehicle in a no-passing zone on the crest of a hill” and exceeding the speed limit, causing the pickup to leave the roadway, said Byrd.
Byrd told The Mirror Monday that Powers had been driving slowly, and that the defendant became enraged when another vehicle safely and legally passed him. The accident occurred after Powers accelerated and attempted to pass that vehicle, Byrd said.
When the truck ran off the road, Powers overcorrected and the vehicle “fishtailed,” ejecting Green, Byrd said. The truck came to rest on its top, the prosecutor said. Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace W.V. Ray pronounced Green dead at the scene.
Green’s family asked Powers be given long-term probation rather than prison time, said Byrd, who said he went along with the family’s wishes to recommend probation. The family was present at Friday’s sentencing, he said.
Under terms of probation, Powers, who was represented by Gilmer attorney Tim Cone, must perform 400 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine, take “anger management,” and continue seeing a psychiatrist.
He was also ordered to pay court costs and a $50 fee to Crime Stoppers, participate in a “victim impact panel,” receive counseling, and provide a list of all medications to his probation officer, among other terms.