LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three young men apologized to their victim on Thursday after a judge sentenced them to time behind bars for throwing a rock from an interstate overpass, striking the woman in the head and causing her severe brain damage.
A judge ordered Dylan Lahr, Tyler Porter and Keefer McGee to serve at least 4½ years, 1 year and 10 months, and 11½ months for the July 2014 attack on Interstate 80 in central Pennsylvania that injured Sharon Budd.
"I thought the judge would be just, and he was," said Budd, a middle school language arts teacher from Uniontown, Ohio, after the hearing. "It's hard to look at their faces and not feel bad for them."
The minimum sentences are the earliest they could be released from county jail or state prison. All three have much longer maximum sentences and will be on probation for many years. They also were ordered to pay restitution.
Lahr, 18, who was given credit for spending the past year behind bars, was shackled around the waist as he asked Budd directly for forgiveness.
"I'm sorry, Sharon," he said. "I feel horrible for what has happened and for what you and your family had to go through."
Porter said he was sorry and that he wished every day the attack had not occurred.
McGee drew a response from Union County District Attorney Pete Johnson when he told Budd: "I shouldn't have let my friends do what they did."
"Calling these things bad choices or mistakes, I think, demeans what it is, which is the expression of criminal intent, the criminal choice," Johnson told Judge Michael Sholley. "And that deserves punishment."
Budd has already undergone seven surgeries after the rock that crashed through the front windshield of her car destroyed much of her skull, part of her brain and one eye. She and her husband were passengers as their daughter drove them through Pennsylvania, on their way to see a show in New York, when the attack occurred.
Budd's husband, Randy, called the injuries "a lifelong sentence for Sharon."
"We have four children," Randy Budd told Sholley. "They always went to Sharon. Now they come to me. Sharon always took care of them. Now they take care of Sharon."
A fourth man, Dylan's brother Brett Lahr, 20, previously began serving at least 18 months after pleading no contest to a conspiracy count. Porter, 19, pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Dylan Lahr pleaded guilty to trespassing, agricultural vandalism and two counts of aggravated assault. McGee, 18, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
"It feels like a result that is appropriate," Johnson, the prosecutor, said afterward. "I can't say, when you're done with this kind of thing, that anything feels like justice."
Authorities say the rock-throwing culminated a day of troublemaking that included shoplifting steaks, breaking a window in a neighbor's home and driving through a cornfield, causing damage. A truck driver also reported damage from a rock in that spot around the same time.
Dylan Lahr and Porter will serve their sentences in state prison, where Brett Lahr is incarcerated. McGee was allowed work release while serving his time in the county jail.
Randy Budd said he has begun a campaign to increase safety fencing on interstate overpasses.