Driver, 77, responsible for Port cyclist’s death spared jail

Judge blasts his decision to keep driving after seeing double but says man guilty of homicide doesn’t need to be locked up
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A 77-year-old Cedar  Grove man who said he felt dizzy and was experiencing double vision but continued driving until he hit a 72-year-old bicyclist from Port Washington on the shoulder of Highway LL last spring was spared time behind bars when he was sentenced Tuesday for causing the death of Robert Bley.

Following a joint recommendation from the prosecutor and defense attorney, Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams withheld a prison sentence and placed David M. Nash, who pleaded no contest last month to homicide by the negligent use of a vehicle, on probation for five years, ordering him to surrender his driver’s license and not operate a motor vehicle.

The question for Williams was whether Nash should serve time in the county jail as a condition of probation.

“It would clearly be justified because a life has been lost,” she said.

But, the judge added, little would be accomplished by locking up a man who until  last month had no criminal record, has been a productive member of society and has taken full responsibility for his decision to continue driving despite the fact there were clear signs he was unfit to do so.

“I think there are ways to protect the community without that normal punishment component,” Williams said. “Clearly, Mr. Nash, you should not be driving.”

The sentence came after short but emotional comments from the sister and brother of Bley, who was described as a vibrant 72-year-old who was an avid bicyclist doing what he loved with friends just a few miles from his home in Port Washington when he was hit by Nash on May 17, 2021.

Carol Bley Reichelt, who participated in the sentencing hearing via video, spoke of how her brother endured multiple surgeries and spent weeks in the hospital, leaving his family to make an agonizing decision.

She referenced a letter to the court in which she wrote, “From the moment of the accident and throughout the month of June, my brothers and myself experienced what no family should ever have to. We witnessed our brother severely injured in so many ways that doctors told us there was a zero-percent chance of recovery even after multiple surgeries repaired his broken bones.

“Making the decision to remove life support was the only painful option left for us ....

“You (Nash) took away my brother Robert Bley’s right to live his life.”

Larry Bley told Williams, “My brother paid the maximum price with his life, and I would expect the maximum sentence in this matter.”

Weather was not a factor in the accident, which occurred on a sunny afternoon. Witnesses said they saw Nash’s Jeep Compass drift off of Highway LL and hit Bley from behind on the far side of the Highway LL shoulder north of Green Bay Road in the Town of Port Washington at 1:37 p.m.

Bley, a bicyclist who had ridden throughout the county and state, was thrown into the west ditch of the highway. He was taken by ambulance to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, then flown by a Flight for Life helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, where he died of his injuries on June 1.

Interviewed by authorities at the scene of the accident, Nash said he was driving from his home in Cedar Grove to a physical therapy appointment in Grafton when, near Belgium, he became dizzy and possibly started seeing double.

Nash, who noted he felt odd all day, said he eventually blacked out but came to when he heard a loud thump and pulled over, according to the complaint.

Nash told an Ozaukee County sheriff’s deputy that he had not been drinking but that he had diagnosed himself with having had a stroke about 14 months earlier.

The deputy said that as Nash was being questioned about the accident, he trailed off onto other topics.

A woman who had been driving behind Nash for several miles told authorities he was not swerving until he suddenly drifted off the highway and hit Bley.

An autopsy concluded that Bley’s death was primarily caused by multiple blunt force injuries.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, who noted tests showed that Nash had not been drinking and had not taken drugs the day of the accident, said he charged him with negligent homicide because despite clear signs that he was not fit to operate a vehicle well before the accident he made the “horribly selfish decision” to continue driving, demonstrating an “exceedingly high level of recklessness.”

“He said he was seeing double but continued driving,” Gerol said. “He could have very easily pulled over and easily asked for help. He chose to simply ignore the dangers to himself and the public.”

Nash’s attorney, Jacob Birenbaum, said his client has taken full responsibility for his role in the death of Bley by pleading no contest to a felony charge and settling a civil matter with Bley’s estate.

Although it doesn’t compare with the agony Bley’s death caused his family, Birenbaum said, “he (Nash) will forever have to live with his decision that day. He never thought someone’s life would end as a result of his actions.”

Homicide by the negligent operation of a vehicle is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and five years of extended supervision.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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