Van Wagner given 50 years in prison

Published 3:26 pm Friday, September 10, 2010

Jerry Van Wagner, the man who was found guilty last week of aggravated DUI and kidnapping, has been sentenced to 50 years without the possibility of parole.

Last week’s court proceedings showed that Van Wagner was driving drunk on the day of April 26, 2009, and because of his impaired state, was unable to keep control of his vehicle. As a result, the vehicle left the road, and when he overcompensated to get it back on the road, the vehicle rolled several times, ejecting his girlfriend, 27 year-old Crystal Brasher.

A jury heard about a day and half of evidence last week. The evidence also alleged that Van Wagner kidnapped Brasher. Part of the kidnapping evidence included testimony from a deputy who saw Brasher with bruises on her face the day before the accident which caused him to charge Van Wagner with domestic violence. However, Brasher bonded Van Wagner out of jail hours later. Other evidence pointing to the kidnapping charge involved eyewitnesses to the accident describing a heavy chain wrapped around Brasher’s legs. The eyewitnesses said that when they found her on the side of the road, the chain was wrapped from her knees to her ankles. No other part of her body was described as being bound.

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After about three hours of deliberation, the jury found Van Wagner guilty of the aggravated DUI and kidnapping charges.

Thursday morning, Van Wagner went before the Pearl River County Circuit Court once more for a habitual offender hearing. According to a motion to amend the indictment filed in Circuit Court, Van Wagner has been convicted of burglary in 1997 and of felony DUI in 2001, both in the state of Alabama. According to Alabama state law, a person is charged with felony DUI for a fourth DUI.

District Attorney Hal Kittrell said the judge heard the evidence concerning the previous convictions, which was presented by Department of Alabama Central Records Division Director Kathy Holt. In that testimony, she showed  that Van Wagner had served nine years and nine months for the burglary conviction and two years for the felony DUI conviction.

Judge Prentiss Harrell determined Van Wagner to be a habitual offender and sentenced him to 25 years, to be served in its entirety for the kidnapping conviction and 25 years for the aggravated DUI conviction, for a total of 50 years.

Kittrell said that the sentences will be served consecutively and that Van Wagner will never be eligible for parole.