By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press
BRANDON — A Mississippi man found guilty of manslaughter in a drunken boating accident that killed his father and another man was sentenced Monday to 26 years in prison.
Brad Hardy, 31, was convicted in Rankin County last week in the deaths of Mikeal Hardy, 60, and Roger Gipson, 48. He was convicted of aggravated assault for injuring another man in the crash.
Prosecutors convinced a jury that Hardy crashed into other boats while trying to use his to splash people celebrating Memorial Day weekend at a sandbar on the Pearl River, which feeds the sprawling Ross Barnett Reservoir, a popular spot for water skiing and fishing in central Mississippi.
Hardy’s defense claimed a catastrophic steering failure caused the crash.
Assistant District Attorney Marty Miller said after the hearing that Hardy had a blood alcohol level of .09 percent — above the legal limit of .08 percent — almost an hour and half after the accident. Hardy had three DUIs in the 1990s, said District Attorney Michael Guest.
Hardy wept before sentencing, telling the judge that he wasn’t trying to splash anyone.
“Only me and God really know what happened,” Hardy said, standing before the judge in a yellow jail jumpsuit and shackles.
Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William Chapman wasn’t moved.
“This defendant is emotional, but it is not any remorse for what he has done. He’s emotional because he’s getting ready to go to the penitentiary,” Chapman said.
Chapman said he believed the testimony at trial that Hardy was trying to splash people with the boat.
“You chose to drink and operate that boat the way you did. There was nothing wrong with the boat, there was something wrong with the operator,” Chapman said.
Lt. Randy Newell of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks said after the hearing that Hardy was speeding toward the sandbar and tried to spray his father, who had done something similar earlier in the day.
Chapman sentenced Hardy to 18 years in Gipson’s death and eight years for injuring William Hulett. Those sentences will run consecutively, for a total of 26 years.
The judge said Hardy would make the ultimate decision on whether he spends time behind bars for the death of his father.
He gave Hardy an 18-year suspended sentence for the death of his father, but said he would have to serve that time if he violates the conditions of his release when he gets out of prison.
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