Geneseo, N.Y. --- The family of Bill Ehrmentraut knew the case against the man who struck and killed their loved one would be difficult to prove at trial. In September they agreed to a plea deal that was finalized Monday when a judge sentenced Michael Manley, 28, to six months in jail followed by five years of probation.
In the early morning hours of February 12, 2012 Manley struck and killed Ehrmentraut on Route 15A in Lima. Manley was driving a large SUV and Ehrmentraut was walking along the side of the road just feet from his home. Manley fled the scene and Ehrmentraut, 51, was discovered the next morning lying dead in a snow bank.
At the urging of friends Manley turned himself into police the following day and told investigators that he was not drunk and that he thought he hit a deer. Investigators later produced evidence that suggests Manley was drinking the entire day and night leading up to the collision but none of that could substantiate a charge of Driving While Intoxicated since Manley fled the scene. Given the challenge in proving Manley did not believe he hit a deer that morning a trial would’ve been an uphill battle for the prosecution.
"For us to go to trial and prove that he (Manley) knew that he hit Bill would've been very, very, very difficult because he said that he thought he hit a deer and afterwards he told police he wasn't drinking,” said Geri Ehrmentraut, Bill’s mother.
Instead, Manley pled guilty to Leaving the Scene of an Accident. The felony charge carries with it a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and Monday afternoon the judge told Manley, “I will guarantee that you will be sentenced to the maximum” if he messes up on probation.
As part of the plea Manley admitted in court that he knows he struck a person that morning. At the judge’s urging he said, “I’m sorry” to nearly twenty members of the Ehrmentraut family who were present for his sentencing on Monday.
For the Ehrmentraut family the pain of their loss is magnified by another realization about Manley’s past. The New York State DMV confirmed for 13WHAM News in July that Manley never owned a valid driver’s license. One of Ehrmentraut’s sisters, Gerry, works at the Livingston County District Attorney’s Office and sees cases involving unlicensed drivers often.
"It's always upset me,” Gerry Ehrmentraut said. “The drinking and driving and the unlicensed operator but now that it's come flat in my face it just disgusts me. You have no right! It's against the law what you're doing, please stop!”
"Everyone they catch needs a penalty,” Karen Lawrence, another sister of Bill Ehrmentraut’s said. “Everyone, it's against the law. It's a privilege to drive you don't just get to do it.”
“I think that the people in charge of the law need to come down harder on people that are driving and driving without a license,” said Bill’s mom Geri. “Look what's happened?”