An Amherst driver who hit a 16-year-old youth on Main Street in North Buffalo, then sped away, leaving the victim lying in the road with a critical head injury, was sentenced Thursday to one to three years in prison.
Kevin Ford, 23, previously pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a serious physical injury accident and fourth-degree insurance fraud. He had faced a maximum prison sentence of eight years.
Rashina Sturgis, the victim’s mother, said her son suffered a traumatic brain injury and will never be the same person he was before the hit-and-run.
She said she couldn’t understand how Ford could hit somebody and leave them lying in the street like an animal.
“Something needs to be done about this,” she told Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka.
Devaughn Moore was walking home Feb. 3 after filling out a job application to work in a coffee shop at Erie County Medical Center when the car struck him as he was crossing Main Street at Morris Avenue at about 7:30 p.m. The driver sped away.
Devaughn, a student at Lafayette High School, was hospitalized for four weeks.
The day after he was released from Women & Children’s Hospital, police arrested Ford following an investigation by police agencies in Buffalo, Amherst and Niagara Falls.
At sentencing, Ford’s attorney, Samuel P. Davis, appealed for leniency, noting that his client was on his way home on a dark wintry night on a busy section of Main Street when he hit something but only learned later that he had hit someone.
Davis said Ford stopped his car and called his father who told him to come to his home in Niagara Falls, where, the attorney said, the father gave him some bad advice.
Based on that advice, Ford drove to a field off Ninth Street in the Falls, where the car was set on fire. He then reported the vehicle had been stolen and filed a false insurance claim one week later, prosecutors said.
Davis said Ford regrets listening to his father’s advice and has accepted responsibility for his actions that night.
He noted that Ford has no prior criminal record, attended D’Youville College and planned to transfer to SUNY Buffalo State and has a son and newborn daughter.
Ford apologized to the victim’s mother, who was in the courtroom, and appealed for leniency, saying he didn’t know what he had done and that he has to take care of his son and daughter.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel, chief of the DA’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau, said Devaughn has problems with his speech and hand-eye coordination and is receiving physical therapy twice a week. She said he had been unable to attend school since the hit-and-run and is being schooled at home.
She urged the judge not to follow the Probation Department’s recommendation that Ford be placed on probation.
She cited the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and the defendant’s attempt to cover up his actions that night. She said he has been charged in the Falls with third-degree arson and auto stripping.
Omel said Ford admitted he had hit the victim, only after police traced the car to him based on parts of the vehicle found at the scene.
The key evidence in finding the vehicle was the shell of a shattered side-view mirror, according to investigators in the Buffalo Police Department’s Accident Investigation Unit.
They sought assistance from Amherst Senior Accident Investigator Scott A. Lawida, an expert in broken auto parts at accident scenes, who determined that the mirror was from a 2006 Chevy Impala.
Police then searched the state computer database and came up with more than 500 cars that fit that description in Erie County.
Investigators caught a break when they went to an address on Princeton Avenue in Amherst near the Buffalo border and ran a license plate check on the vehicle registered there. A report came back that it had been reported stolen the same night as the hit-and-run.
The torched car was located at an insurance impound yard, with the side-view mirror missing and damage to the right front fender.
Investigators brought Ford in for questioning, and he admitted that he was the driver, according to police.