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No jail time for driver who struck bicyclist

Michelle Kazlausky’s death was ruled a homicide after a car struck her during the Pelotonia charity bike race last August, but the driver who hit her won’t face jail time.

Ervin Blackston, of Hocking County, pleaded no contest to the second-degree misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter Feb. 7, but a civil lawsuit was filed Jan. 28. According to the judgment of the court, he was sentenced to 90 days jail, with 87 days suspended, which left him with three days jail or six days community service.

Blackston, 58, chose to complete community service.

He was also fined $750 with $500 suspended leaving him a balance of $250 on his fine. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Blackston’s lawyer, Tim Gleeson, said his client would need additional time to pay this fine. Hocking County Municipal Judge John T. Wallace gave Blackston six months to obtain the money.

Wallace also suspended Blackston’s license for a year, with a removal of six months, leaving him with a six-month license suspension. He will also have a year of probation.

Jonah Saving, the assistant Hocking County prosecutor on the case, said the family didn’t want Blackston to face jail time.

“We did what the family kind of wanted to do in the case and they didn’t want him going to jail,” Saving said. “They kind of saw it as we saw it, that it was just a tragic accident, so we basically followed the family’s wishes in the case.”

Saving said it is possible the case would have been ruled differently if the family had not requested this.

Kazlausky, 57, was riding the Pelotonia Tour for cancer when she was hit by Blackston’s pickup truck Aug. 21 during a rainstorm in Hocking County. The Lantern reported Sept. 26 that failed brakes on the truck were linked to the crash.

The Pelotonia organization declined to comment on Blackston’s sentencing.

The truck Blackston was driving belongs to his brother, Earl.

Neither Blackston had liability insurance, said Mark Kitrick, the attorney for Kazlausky’s sister, Patti Byerly.

Byerly filed a civil lawsuit in the Hocking County Common Pleas Court Jan. 28 against the Blackstons.

Neither Blackston nor Byerly was available for comment.

Kitrick said the lawsuit was filed to bring awareness to liability insurance.

“You’re not allowed to drive in Ohio without insurance, it’s against the law,” Kitrick said. “So you can’t drive around and kill somebody and just think that nothing is going to happen to you.”

The family wants to educate people about getting the proper insurance on their own car and hope that this lawsuit will help teach people what their options are to protect themselves, in case something like this happens to them, Kitrick said.

Kitrick said citizens also need to double check whether they have uninsured motorist coverage.

“If an OSU student is out running or on a bike and hit by a driver that doesn’t have insurance, they can be covered by their car insurance if they have uninsured motorist coverage, even if they’re not in their own car,” Kitrick said.

The Blackstons have 28 to 30 days to file a written answer regarding the lawsuit from the Jan. 28 filing. They still haven’t responded.

Gleeson said he has yet to be retained by the Blackstons for the lawsuit.

Kitrick and Byerly tried to contact the Blackstons before filing the lawsuit, but they never responded.

“The owner and the driver of the car have not responded to us in any way, and that’s not a good thing when you have this kind of situation going on,” Kitrick said.

Although Kitrick said professionally he has no opinions on Blackston’s sentencing because he has to leave that up to the criminal justice system, personally, he’s disappointed about the ruling.

Saving disagrees.

“I think it was a good solution for all the parties involved.”

 

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