JEFFERSON — A 25-year-old Fort Atkinson man was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and 14 years on extended supervision for a drunken-driving crash that killed his friend last fall.
Jonathan Buehl, of Fort Atkinson, was 23 when he died. In a tearful statement, his mother, Carol McGurk, asked the judge to sentence Trevor J. Altreuter to 23 years ... one year for every year of her son’s life.
“I just want to wake up from this nightmare and I would give my whole life just to have him back,” McGurk said during the sentencing in Jefferson County Circuit Court. “He didn’t deserve this and I miss him so much. I think nine years is just a number. My son was only here for a short 23 years before the car accident. I feel a punishment of 23 years would be a more reasonable punishment.”
Judge William Hue agreed, giving Altreuter eight more years of extended supervision than Assistant District Attorney Jeff Shock had sought.
“You have a prior OWI, marijuana in his system, BAC is 0.17 and he’s driving without a valid license,” Hue said . “That all, to me, makes the case worse. So, when the mom talked about 23 years being an appropriate sentence being, in terms of his life, symbolic, that’s pretty compelling to me.”
Alreuter pleaded no contest to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and misdemeanor OWI in May.
The initial incident occurred in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2018, when Altreuter and Buehl had gone out drinking in Whitewater.
The two were driving home in Altreuter’s 2002 Ford F150 pickup truck when Altreuter lost control of it on a curve and struck a tree in the Town of Cold Spring.
Buehl, who was sitting in the passenger seat, was pronounced dead on the scene.
Altreuter was taken to Fort Memorial Hospital, where he refused to give a field sobriety test. Eventually, police had to obtain a search warrant to test his blood for alcohol. It was found he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 — twice the legal limit — and also that there was THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system.
The prosecutor had asked Hue to sentence Altreuter to nine years in prison and six years on extended supervision.
Shock pointed out that Altreuter didn’t have any prior criminal convictions, although he did have two citations for disorderly conduct and two citations for underage drinking.
Altreuter was also cited for a first-offense OWI in 2016, which caused his license to be revoked. Shock said that if Altreuter had followed this court order, the fatal crash two years later could have been avoided.
“So I think, at the end of the day, what we have here is, unfortunately, one young man, Jonathan, who’s no longer here because Mr. Altreuter here made a conscious decision,” Shock said in court. “A conscious decision to smoke marijuana. He made a conscious decision to get behind the wheel without a driver’s license and he did so without any regard, frankly, for his own life, for the life of this passenger or for the lack of anybody else who was on the roadway.”
Altreuter’s defense attorney, David Anderson, argued that Altreuter needed treatment for substance abuse issues, not to be locked up in prison.
Anderson also said that Altreuter’s lack of criminal history, his remorse and his dedication to his children mean he should be given a sentence of three years’ imprisonment and seven years on extended supervision.
Anderson repeatedly said that Altreuter knows he is responsible for the death of Buehl and feels remorseful for his actions.
“Now, lengthy prison sentences certainly meet the punishment aspect of the sentence, but they also don’t do much for rehabilitation,” Altreuter said. “A prison sentence is appropriate under the circumstances. But no matter the specific punishment, your honor, Trevor will carry this burden with him pretty much the rest of his life.”
Altreuter himself addressed the court before his sentencing, apologizing for the decisions that put him and Buehl in the F150 early in the morning in September of 2018.
“I know it doesn’t mean much, but I do want to apologize,” Altreuter said. “I do want justice for Johnny and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Despite Altreuter’s remorse, Judge Hue said, he needed to balance the needs of the victim’s family, Altreuter’s rehabilitation needs and the need to protect the community. In doing so, he said, he doesn’t think Altreuter is evil, but just that he needs to be held accountable.
“I don’t think you are a bad man,” Hue said. “I think this was a terrible, terrible tragedy that you are responsible for.”
After the sentence was handed down, there were tears in the courtroom from both Altreuter’s and Buehl’s families. Hue said he’s understands what both families are going through.
“I’m sad for the family,” Hue said. “I’m sad for you guys, as well.”
Before adjourning, Hue gave a stern warning to all in the courtroom to not drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel.
“Everybody in this room, please do not drink and drive,” Hue said.
“If you drink, don’t drive. If you drink and drive and you hurt or kill somebody, you’re going to go to prison. It’s that simple.”