A Moriarty man convicted in January of charges tied to a road-rage incident that injured a group of senior citizen cyclists was sentenced Wednesday to spend 3 1/2 years in prison.
Jacob Brown, 41, also must spend one year on probation and attend a victim’s impact group and anger management counseling, state District Judge T. Glenn Ellington ruled during an emotional hearing that included testimony from the most severely injured cyclist.
In January, a jury found Brown guilty of causing great bodily injury by vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm and reckless driving in the March 2018 collision near Galisteo.
His attorney filed a motion earlier this month requesting a new trial.
Members of the Seniors on Bikes cycling group said Brown had sped past them in the left-hand lane of N.M. 41 and caused a collision. The cyclists said Brown yelled obscenities, pulled into the lane in front of their bikes, threw his vehicle in reverse and angrily backed into the group.
One of the victims, Doug Harrel, shuffled slightly when he walked to the podium before Ellington on Wednesday and said he wanted to talk about his road to recovery.
After the crash, Harrel said, shards of ribs punctured his lungs, his arm was held on by skin and muscle tissue, and he had a broken pelvis. He recalled a conversation with a thoracic surgeon about plating his ribs, finding all the shards and piecing them together like a puzzle, and screwing titanium plates in place for the bones to heal.
“I guess this means I was going to survive,” he said he remembered thinking at the time.
Harrel described the intimate details of his recovery — the agony of physical therapy after shoulder surgery and the monotony of being isolated to his home. “My life was limited by a 50-foot air line,” he said.
He retreated from his cycling friends, Harrel said, because biking, which had been a balm, now caused him excruciating pain.
While Harrel hoped Brown’s sentencing would give him closure, his recovery isn’t over — he’s facing the possibility of more surgery on his ribs, he said.
Harrel asked for Brown to receive prison time as well as anger management counseling.
“No sentence can make up for the damage done, no sentence can make the pain go away,” Harrel said. “But I do believe Mr. Brown can come out of this a better person if he chooses to.”
Brown didn’t look up from the table during Harrel’s more than 40-minute testimony.
Ellington said Brown must serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence because two of the charges met the threshold for a serious violent offense.
The judge had harsh words for Brown, telling the man he could have just continued on his day after the encounter with the cyclists but instead made a choice that had severe consequences.
“You decided for whatever reason you weren’t done, you wanted to give them a piece of your mind, and the jury decided your actions were criminal,” Ellington said.
Brown’s uncle, fiancée and grandmother spoke on his behalf, all telling the court the collision was an accident, that Brown felt remorse and that he was a good person.
His grandmother told stories of how he had done repairs to her house, took care of her dying animals and took care of her. She began to cry. Brown looked up from the table, also crying, as she begged the judge not to give him prison time.
Brown also spoke at the hearing, insisting he had been scared for his life at the time of the incident and that the collision wasn’t his fault. But he said he was sorry others got hurt.
“There was reckless behavior on both sides,” Brown said. “I’m ready to take responsibility or whatever for what they said my actions were.”
He had offered to “mow Harrel’s lawn or fix his roof,” he added.
He listed his military service, his security clearances and his own biking experience, and he said “he always tried to do the right thing.”
He pleaded with the judge not to send him to prison, so he could continue caring for his grandmother. But the judge was not swayed.
Ellington called Harrel’s recovery extraordinary and told Brown he was lucky the man survived; otherwise, he could have faced a much more serious charge of vehicular homicide.
Referring to Harrel, Ellington said, “The reason he is here today is the quality and substance of that man.”