Drunk driver who left a man legless gets jail time, probation

Victim asked judge for leniency

WAUKESHA COUNTY - The woman who crashed into a Waukesha County home and left one man seriously injured was sentenced to a year in jail Monday after pleading no contest to the charge.

Jennifer Yaeger Beranek, 49, crashed into Larry Hansen’s garage while he was working in it last December. 

On Monday he appeared in court in a wheelchair. He lost his right leg in the crash. 

But Hansen wasn’t vindictive and asked the court not to send Yaeger Beranek to prison, saying it was more about what didn’t happen the night he was hit. He didn’t lose both legs, he wasn’t paralyzed, and he said Yaeger Beranek should consider herself lucky she wasn’t hurt or killed. 

“She knows she made a bad decision and there are consequences," Hansen said. "I feel bad for her, I really really do...she didn’t try to do this and she’s got a tough road ahead of her."

He said his and his wife's faith in God helped them through this and guided them toward asking for leniency.

"I look at the positive and when this happened, I mean I was bummed out," said Hansen. "I had a couple of bad days but I thought I can’t redo it, I can’t get the leg back. Am I going to be mad all my life? I said no."

Hansen’s left leg was also badly damaged in the crash, and he is scheduled for a knee replacement on Tuesday. 

The state recommended mild prison time in this case. It was Yaeger Beranek’s first OWI offense, she didn’t have a prior record and she had completed significant treatment and counseling. 

Yaeger Beranek's attorney said Yaeger Beranek's son committed suicide almost five years to the day before the crash happened. She doesn't remember anything after her second glass of wine. Her attorney said she was doing a weight cleanse so she got drunk very quickly. 

Court records show her blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit.

Her daughter and ex-husband gave statements before the court. Her daughter tearfully said Yaeger Beranek was never the same after her son's suicide and coped with alcohol.

Her daughter also said her mother is a good person and needs help, not prison.

Yaeger Beranek said she doesn’t remember the crash or anything after. She apologized directly to Hansen before her sentencing.

"Mr. Hansen, I’ve wanted to reach out to you for a very long time there are not enough words or actions to express or equal how horrific how I feel for what I’ve done and taken away from you," she said. "No one forced me to drink on December 8 and I’m disgusted with myself for what I’ve taken away from you and caused. I’m so sorry, I’m so very sorry. It was careless and reckless."

Waukesha County Judge Michael Aprahamian commented on Hansen and his family's grace before he sentenced Yaeger Beranek to nine months in jail, along with three months in a work-release program. She will then be on probation for six and a half years. 

Aprahamian said he had to show the community that there's a consequence for driving drunk. 

As part of the terms of her probation, Yaeger Beranek has to be absolutely sober, and subject to random screenings. She also was sentenced to 350 hours of community service. 

The judge also said he hopes she participates in OWI awareness events and speaks at panels about her experience. 
 

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