CASTLE ROCK – A man who a jury said walked away drunk from a fatal wreck he caused on Interstate 25 two years ago received a six year prison sentence Friday.
Under state law, Daniel Swecker, 44, was eligible for probation following a May conviction for vehicular homicide/DUI and leaving the scene of a deadly accident.
In the end, the judge in Douglas County decided to give Swecker prison time. In an unusual move, however, Judge Vincent White decided to let Swecker walk out of court by delaying the imposition of the sentence until Swecker finds out if his appeal will be accepted. It's unclear how long that could take, but some appeals can take months if not years.
Swecker's BAC was over the legal limit, according to prosecutors, when he slammed his Ford Excursion into the back of a Ford Expedition on southbound I-25 in Castle Rock very early in the morning on February 27, 2012.
Nelson Canada, who investigators believe had been arguing with a passenger in the SUV, was outside of the Expedition when the SUV was hit. The collision sent Canada's body into the far left lane of southbound I-25.
The father and Iraq war veteran died at the scene.
Prosecutors successfully argued at trial that Swecker walked away from the scene and then called his wife at the next exit along I-25. He ultimately came back to the scene, prosecutors say, at the urging of his wife.
Arapahoe/Douglas County District Attorney George Brauchler said Swecker's past problems with alcohol prompted his office to seek a prison sentence. State records indicate Swecker was twice arrested for DUI in 2006.
"If at the end of the day, a guy working on his third arrest for DUI can kill someone on the road, walk away from responsibility, and then be allowed to shop with you at the mall over the weekend, that doesn't make any sense," he told 9Wants to Know investigator Chris Vanderveen.
Braucher said the case highlights a gap in state law that allows DUI drivers who cause fatal crashes to avoid prison time altogether. Colorado Republicans had fought earlier in the year to change the law at the Colorado State Capitol, but Democrats ultimately killed the bill in committee.
At the time, Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) told 9WTK, "I think this bill was introduced because it's an election year -- I think this is political gamesmanship with a set of victims who are very vulnerable and are being used as pawns in an election year game..."
He said, in the end, he believes judges make the correct decision as to sentencing and felt they shouldn't have to be subject to mandatory minimums in all cases.
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