Reckless driver gets five years in prison for vehicular assault case |

Reckless driver gets five years in prison for vehicular assault case

A 27-year-old Steamboat Springs man who hit a parked car and sent two other people to the hospital has been sentenced to five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Routt County Judge Michael O’Hara sentenced Scott Schneegas on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Schneegas will receive credit for 277 days he has already served.

“I want you to know that I am painfully aware that nothing I can say or do is really going to make you feel any better, and that’s not what sentencing is designed to do,” O’Hara told the two victims before announcing his decision.

Schneegas pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular assault, one count of third-degree assault and one count of reckless driving.

O’Hara made his decision after hearing arguments from Routt County Deputy District Attorney Melinda Carlson and public defender Kiyomi Bolick, as well as an apology written by Schneegas and victim impact statements read by Andrew Leedom and Zach Engle, both of whom were hurt in the crash and needed to be hospitalized afterward. Leedom’s wife also testified to how the incident has changed her family’s life.

According to the court documents, Schneegas was driving west down Lincoln Avenue when he drove into vehicles parked on the side of the road. Leedom and Engle were standing nearby and struck by two of the parked vehicles due to the impact.

Both Leedom and Engle were transferred to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Engle sustained minor injuries to his arm, but Leedom suffered two broken legs, one of which had to be amputated. Leedom told the court Tuesday that he has since had five surgeries on his leg with more potentially in the future.

“I had to keep telling myself on that sidewalk that I wasn’t dying that day,” Leedom said during the hearing. “You hit someone with a strong will to survive.”

Leedom said he has received immeasurable support from the community, but ultimately, his life will never be the same.

“In my opinion, you should get the full sentence that’s coming to you, and you should never, ever be able to drive a vehicle in your life,” Leedom said to Schneegas. “You’re a danger to your community, and your community would be a lot safer if you’re in prison.”

Carlson pointed out that Schneegas has an extensive criminal history, mostly comprising of minor drug offenses and vehicular crashes. Still, Carlson said Schneegas has repeatedly not complied with his probation, missed drug tests and repeated offenses.

The day of the accident, Carlson said, investigators discovered that Schneegas had stolen two cans of compressed air from Walmart and huffed them to get high. Carlson also said a drug screening found THC in Schneegas’ system.

“Based on his history that Ms. Carlson has just detailed, (Schneegas) has proven beyond a doubt that he is extremely slow to learn a lesson and/or that he simply does not care about anyone but himself,” Andrew’s wife, Deb Leedom, told the courtroom. “My husband lost his leg and his way of life because Mr. Schneegas had to get high, he had to drive and he simply didn’t care.”

However, Schneegas’ attorney painted a different picture of the defendant — a troubled drug addict with a serious mental condition who did not mean any harm.

“Drugs and substances have really been a significant factor in what led (Schneegas) to be sitting in this chair today,” Bolick said. “We are all worth more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

Because this was her client’s first felony, Bolick asked for Schneegas to be placed on probation, where she believed he could learn from his mistakes and be there for his partner, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child.

“The guilt that he caries through all of this, not being there for the kid and the victims, is something he will carry forever,” Bolick said.

O’Hara said he tries to give lenient sentences when possible and allow defendants the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Seeing the offense as serious and that Schneegas had not previously taken probation seriously, O’Hara said prison was the only viable option.

“Sometimes the best answer from the court and from society is to incarcerate you, as that at least takes you off the street for sometime,” O’Hara said.

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