Liebscher sentenced to three years in prison
Prison time followed by seven years of extended supervision
By Dean S. Acheson
RHINELANDER — Eleven months after Jeffrey M. Liebscher fled the scene of a traffic accident in which he struck and killed Sean J. Holtslander, he was sentenced to three years in prison to be followed by seven years of probation.
Judge Patrick O’Melia imposed the sentence Thursday, July 30 in Oneida County Circuit Court on a single felony count of hit and run resulting in death of the St. Germain man. The 54-year-old Sugar Camp man was credited for 69 days he has
already spent in jail on a bond revocation for consuming alcohol.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, only 16 members of the public were allowed in the courtroom; about a dozen others watched the proceedings televised in the county boardroom.
Mother’s tearful remembrance
District Attorney Michael Schiek put only Sean’s mother, Dorothy Holtslander, on the stand prior to sentencing.
Dorothy Holtslander, reading from her victim impact statement, asked the judge to sentence Liebscher to 23 years – one year for each of her son’s life cut short when Liebscher turned his truck into the path of the motorcycle her son was riding the night of Aug. 28 of last year, according to Oneida County Sheriff’s Department’s investigators.
She said her son was a kind, caring individual even from when he was just a youngster. He started a summer food drive for families in need. “That 10-year-old boy saw that 50 families were fed every single day!” Later, he tutored fellow students and stood up to bullies harassing other kids, she said. “Sean had a big heart. Sean was a protector.
“You killed a young man who had limitless potential, who had talent, a young man who was going to change the world for those around him,” she admonished the defendant. Her son was dating a woman whom he planned to marry; had wanted children; had wanted to be a volunteer firefighter.
“Sean was an organ donor. How many lives did you affect when you didn’t call 9-1-1,” she said.
“We all know that you were intoxicated the night you murdered my son,” she continued. Rather than call for help, “you simply walked away…. One thing that tears me apart is the possibility that the last thing Sean saw was your evil face looking down at him, then walking away, and driving off.”
Examples of Liebscher’s lack of remorse, she said, included the fact that he was in a fishing tournament three days after her son’s death. “You bought a brand new truck in a day or two (of the accident) when you already had another car.”
Liebscher had been allegedly drinking the night of the accident, according to court records. He didn’t remain at the scene after the impact, and didn’t notify authorities until the next day. Another motorist came upon the scene on State Highway 17 North and called 9-1-1 at about 10:15 p.m. that night.
The judge pointed out that Liebscher didn’t do “his statutory duty” by staying with the body or covering it up. Because he left the scene, Liebscher opened the possibility that another motorist could have struck the body, he added.
The judge painted Liebscher’s action following the accident as trying to cover his tracks, including having others help him. “It’s just a lot of cat and mouse that night.” Indeed, he mused, if it had been in a more remote area with no witnesses, perhaps Liebscher “might have gotten away with it.”
Liebscher and his attorney Gary S. Cirilli both told the court that the defendant had turned his truck into his driveway to check his mail and thought the oncoming lights was possibly from a pedestrian with a flashlight.
Defendant explains actions
Liebscher expressed remorse for his actions, saying he had sent the mother a letter of apology to be delivered by the district attorney’s office. He said that after the impact, he exited his truck. “I saw Sean on the edge of the road and the motorcycle on the road. There was no life unfortunately left in the body,” he said. “There was nothing I could do.”
Liebscher said he has a bachelor’s degree in nursing, served as an Army National Guard medic, as well as having extensive medical training as an EMT.
Two friends of Liebscher took the stand to say that Liebscher had contributed to the community with his volunteerism and was a good father to his children.
“As an adult Jeff has done many things for the community,” said Tim Howell, who cited different projects that Liebscher has worked on over the years. He also asked the judge to take in consideration the suffering by Liebscher’s children if he is sent to prison.
Several letters both for and against Liebscher were entered into the record, but not read aloud.
Bail jumping sentence also imposed
In the earlier plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, a second felony charge of homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle was dismissed Feb. 14 by the judge. Liebscher then pled guilty to the hit and run charge, which carries a maximum sentence of a $100,000 fine and 25 years imprisonment.
In the latest court action, the judge also sentenced Liebscher on his no contest plea of violating the terms of his bond by drinking alcohol at a Sugar Camp residence (not his own). The district attorney had amended the felony charge to a misdemeanor. The judge imposed a sentence of nine months to run consecutive with the other sentence, plus a $3,000 fine. Liebscher received two days credit for jail time already spent on that charge.
Liebscher’s $1,500 cash bond on the hit and run was forfeited and O’Melia directed that it be given to Dorothy Holtslander toward any expenses she has incurred.
The judge denied the defense’s request that Liebscher be allowed to take part in the prison system’s “challenge incarceration program.” The judge did rule that he was eligible for the substance abuse program. Both programs, if successfully completed, allow an inmate to convert a portion of his confinement to extended supervision. However, the challenge program is for inmates under age 40.