Kennewick man gets 9 months in 2011 vehicular assault

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 9, 2013 

A 43-year-old man was sentenced this week to nine months in jail for vehicular assault stemming from a 2011 Water Follies weekend crash.

Erik William Votendahl of Kennewick pleaded guilty to the charge after negotiating a deal with Franklin County prosecutors, who recommended a lighter sentence of four and a half months with an option for work release.

The standard sentencing range for the crime is six to nine months, Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow said.

The accident involved Votendahl rear-ending a 1958 Ford Fairlane with his 2007 Pontiac while driving west on Interstate 182 near Road 100.

The Ford rolled in the median before stopping on its top, and driver Karl K. Weitz of Pasco suffered a broken leg and pelvis.

Court documents said Votendahl then drove his Pontiac about three-quarters of a mile over the Benton County line before stopping on the shoulder and running away.

He later called the Washington State Patrol and told troopers he thought he had blacked out because he had just woken up on the bike path behind the Shilo Inn in Richland, and that he thought he had hit a parked car.

When troopers picked him up, he had a red nose, watery eyes and a strong odor of intoxicants on his breath, and swayed during field-sobriety tests. He told troopers he hadn't had an alcoholic drink for months, court documents said.

Votendahl told Franklin County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson at his sentencing hearing that he had taken it upon himself to enter an intensive outpatient alcohol treatment program.

But Matheson rejected his plea for leniency and imposed the full nine months.

"Mr. Votendahl, this was a very serious accident with serious injury," Matheson said. "I think this is a fair sentence."

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