An apologetic Lacombe man was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday in a hit-and-run accident on River Road in Baton Rouge last year that severely injured an LSU graduate student and member of the university cycling club.
State District Judge Don Johnson could have sent Marshall Hahn, 31, to prison for up to 10 years or put him on probation for what his attorney called “an act of absolute stupidity’’ in leaving the scene of the crash.
Johnson said Hahn made “one of the worst choices he could have made.’’
Hahn, who has four children, turned to Michael Bitton — the cyclist he struck near Brightside Lane on May 15, 2010 — and apologized shortly before the judge sentenced him.
“I know there’s nothing I can say or do to change what happened that day. I am truly sorry,’’ Hahn said as he stood next to his attorney, Burton Guidry.
Hahn then told the judge he left the scene because he was “scared to death to lose’’ his family.
“I deserve to be justly punished,’’ he added.
Bitton said nothing in court and declined comment afterward. Hahn was immediately taken into custody.
Guidry lobbied for probation and said Hahn’s conduct that day was “the stupidest error of his life’’ but “a complete aberration.’’
“In a moment of panic two lives literally changed forever,’’ he told the judge.
Prosecutor Will Morris labeled the felony hit-and-run charge “about as serious a crime as you can get.’’
“A fellow human being was left in a ditch to die,’’ he stressed to Johnson.
Morris noted that Bitton is lucky to be alive and Hahn is lucky Bitton did not die.
“His survival had nothing to do with the actions of Mr. Hahn,’’ the prosecutor added.
Bitton, an avid cyclist, was thrown 75 feet into a ditch when Hahn’s 2005 Toyota Tundra hit Bitton’s road bike.
Hahn turned himself in the next day, State Police officials have said.
Johnson noted that Bitton suffered eight crushed vertebrae, broken ribs and a collapsed lung, among other serious injuries.
State Police had charged Hahn with felony hit-and-run, negligent injuring, careless operation, driving under suspension, and failure to give a 3-foot safety zone to a bicyclist.
Hahn, who was charged in 2002 with driving while intoxicated in St. Tammany Parish, was not tested for alcohol or drugs when he surrendered to authorities the day after the crash involving Bitton because too much time had elapsed since the accident, State Police stated.
Guidry insisted that Hahn’s delay in turning himself in was not alcohol-related.