Driver in accident that injured Middlebury girl sentenced

A driver who left the scene of an accident leaving an injured person last year appeared for his sentencing hearing.
Posted on March 15, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 15, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.

ELKHART — Pasquale Rulli, the driver involved in an accident that left a Middlebury girl severely injured eight months ago, was sentenced at Elkhart Superior Court 6 on Friday, March 15.

Rulli, 26, of Middlebury, was sentenced to 18 months on home detention through the community corrections program of Allen County, where he was living at the time of the accident. Phillip Miller, Rulli’s attorney, said if Rulli is not accepted at the Allen County community corrections program due to administrative reasons, he will receive home detention through the Elkhart County community corrections program.

Rulli was also sentenced to 18 months on reporting probation and 120 days on community service. His driver’s license was suspended for 3 1/2 years as part of the sentence as well.

Rulli was driving south on C.R. 35 on his way to Fort Wayne around 10:19 p.m. July 10, 2012, when he hit Zion Carlstrom, 17, who was riding her bike. Rulli continued driving until he reached Fort Wayne, according to court documents.

Rulli came forward to police the next day, and was charged a few months later with failure to stop and remain at scene of accident resulting in injury.

During Rulli’s sentencing hearing, which lasted about an hour and a half, Miller told the judge that while the community wanted to address the seriousness of Zion’s injuries, the focus on Rulli’s case was solely on his actions following the accident.

“Chase acknowledges Zion’s injuries,” he told the court. “He has thought of her daily and he thinks of the pain and struggles she and her family have gone through.”

Miller said Rulli was cooperative since the moment he contacted police.

“He regrets and is remorseful that he didn’t render assistance at the scene,” he said. “There is nothing that suggests there is a chance of him repeating the offense.”

However, Deputy Prosecutor Nathaniel Henson disagreed with Rulli’s level of cooperation.

Henson said Rulli contacted police 16 hours after the accident and that he refused to submit a chemical test.

Miller did explain to the court that he told Rulli not to agree to take the test because he didn’t have all the facts of the incident at the time.

Henson also entered photos of the car Rulli was driving when the accident happened. Henson told the judge the car received significant damage to the front right side of the car and to the windshield.

Rulli told the court he was ready to accept any sentence imposed.

“If I had known I would have stopped for her,” he said.

The Carlstrom family did not attend the hearing. Henson told the court that the family had decided to instead write letters to the court.

“Because of their position they don’t know what is an appropriate sentence,” he said during the hearing before the sentencing. “They hope justice is made today.”

The judge said he will reserve the issue of restitution for the time being, because Rulli is going through a civil case involving Zion as well.

The Carlstrom family filed a lawsuit against Rulli in September. In their complaint file, the family says Rulli had a duty to operate his vehicle in a “reasonable and safe manner,” a duty the file claims Rulli breached. The family is asking for Rulli to “compensate their damage.

“(The family has) suffered, and continues to suffer, damages and personal injuries, have incurred medical expenses, and will incur future medical expenses, the loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish and emotional distress.”

Tracy Carlstrom, Zion’s mother, said Friday the family declined to comment on the hearing.

Zion continues to recover from the accident. She was able to go back to school in October, but she has a tight schedule with classes and therapy sessions.

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