Robert Martin pleads guilty in death of Savannah jazz legend, Ben Tucker
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -
The man charged with the death of local jazz legend, Ben Tucker, has been sentenced to five years’ probation.
Robert Martin pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in court on Friday. He was charged with vehicular homicide in the first degree for the June 2013 crash that killed Tucker. Prosecutors say Martin was speeding along Grand Prize of America Avenue on Hutchinson Island when he collided with Tucker's golf cart.
Martin, a Texas native, was in Savannah for a conference at the time of the incident. He has no prior criminal record and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Investigators say Martin was testing out the track on Hutchinson Island when the crash happened. Data from his car showed he was traveling at 97 miles-per-hour two seconds prior to hitting Tucker.
Even though Martin takes the responsibility of the crash, the defense says it is not entirely his fault because the road should have been blocked off
At one time, there were big plans for the area, including for the road to be a racetrack, but it was a flop. The area was supposed to be secured to prevent situations like the one in question, but it wasn’t.
"This could happen to anyone, judge, and it's happened to Mr. Martin,” the defense said.
Little did Martin know, he was about be on a ride that would change his family’s and the Tucker family’s lives.
Investigators say he takes full responsibility for his decision. But, the defense argues that the track should have been blocked off, because it had already been deemed unsafe for several reasons.
Defense: "Is there a speed limit sign posted anywhere on grand prize avenue?”
“No sir, there’s not,” replied Terry Shook, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.
D: "Is there any marking on the track indicating that there's a crossing for golf carts, to warn a driver to watch out?”
TS, SCMPD: “No sir.
In fact, the defense showed the judge that there is a designated cart path for all golf carts to use that runs underneath the track, because according to the law, golf carts should not be on the road -- a combination of what the defense says was unfortunate circumstances that lead to this tragedy.
Tucker's wife took the stand, describing the love of her life, who was taken from her so suddenly, two years ago.
"His death left a huge whole in my life," said Gloria Tucker. "He'll never walk through the door again. He'll never kiss me hello. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye."
Robert Martin got very emotional when he took the stand himself.
I relive it everyday...it's not easy to talk about," he said.
Martin is a father of four, and until Friday, was unsure if he would be around to help finish raising his children. But regardless, he knew he would live with this the rest of his life, while others live without Ben Tucker.
"I'd like to apologize to Savannah and the icon that was lost here. I didn't know Mr. Tucker prior to coming here," Martin said.
A civil lawsuit has been filed regarding who is responsible for keeping the area safe and blocked off.
Martin could have faced anywhere from three to 15 years.
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