Court turns down plea for reduced sentence in Cleary case

2013-10-31T18:30:00Z 2013-10-31T22:47:12Z Court turns down plea for reduced sentence in Cleary caseSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
October 31, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | A Lake County judge refused to modify the 14-year prison sentence imposed last November on a Valparaiso man found guilty in the death of a road service worker killed while fixing a tire.

Attorneys for Jeffery Cleary, 67, petitioned the court Oct. 24 to reduce or suspend the businessman's sentence based on health conditions as well as the remorse felt by Cleary since his incarceration in the Westville Correctional Facility. The petition also suggests the option of alternative sentencing, such as home detention.

A Lake County jury last year deliberated about two hours before convicting Cleary on drunken driving charges in the 2010 death of Philip Amsden, 63.

Amsden, an employee of Boss Truck Stop in Gary, was fixing a flat tire on a semitrailer parked on the shoulder of Interstate 65 south of Ridge Road when Cleary's SUV struck Amsden's pickup, crushing Amsden between his vehicle and the semitrailer.

The jury's verdict came on the ninth day of Cleary's retrial. A previous jury deadlocked on the three most serious of seven counts, finding him guilty or liable on the remaining offenses.

Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr.'s sentence came at the conclusion of an emotion-laden sentencing hearing last year.

In the petition for modification, attorneys detailed Cleary's health concerns, some of which attorneys argue are beyond the level of care available at Westville.

Cleary's attorneys argued the medical developments and the standard of care at Westville combine to present the possibility Cleary could die in prison.

In his written order rejecting sentence modification, Stefaniak stated he gave due consideration at the time of sentencing to mitigating factors, imposing a lesser-than-typical sentence.

"The court is sympathetic to Mr. Cleary's health situation and hopes that he can obtain adequate medical treatment, but at least he is still alive — unlike Philip Amsden," Stefaniak wrote.

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