PARIS – The driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash in Porter in 2007 was sentenced to serve three years in prison on Tuesday.

Mark E. Tardiff Jr., 23, of 28 Eastman Hill Road, Porter, pleaded guilty to an information of Class B aggravated assault and Class C driving to endanger. The plea dismissed charges of manslaughter, aggravated operating under the influence, operating under the influence, and furnishing liquor to a minor. Tardiff was indicted on those charges in December 2007.

Justice Roland Cole sentenced Tardiff in Oxford County Superior Court to serve three years of an eight-year sentence on the aggravated assault charge with a concurrent three-year sentence on the driving to endanger charge. Tardiff must also serve three years of probation, pay a $1,000 fine, and lose his license for 18 months. During probation, he must not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs, submit to random searches for alcohol or drugs, attend substance abuse counseling and treatment, and not operate any motor vehicle until properly licensed by the state.

According to Sgt. Timothy Ontengco of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, Tardiff was the driver of a 1997 Plymouth Neon that skidded into a pole and overturned on Route 25 during the early morning hours of July 4, 2007. Ontengco said Tardiff was carrying three passengers and returning from a pit party where alcohol was consumed, and that he accelerated the car to dangerous speeds after a verbal argument.

Seventeen-year-old Bianka Cousins of Parsonsfield was killed in the accident. Tardiff, as well as two then-16-year-old passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Assistant District Attorney Joe O’Connor said Tardiff’s blood-alcohol level, taken about three hours after the accident, came in at .05 percent, under the legal limit of .08 percent.

“We felt that he could have been over the limit at the time of the crash, but certainly hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the information, which allows lesser or alternate offenses to be substituted for indictment charges, was drawn up due to the uncertainty of the OUI charge. He said he believes Tardiff was still criminally negligent in the accident, but that a jury might have disagreed.

“I think we could have proved that he was speeding, and in fact speeding at least 30 miles over the limit,” O’Connor said.

Tardiff was previously convicted of operating under the influence in 2004, but did not have a substantial motor vehicle record, O’Connor said. At the time of the accident, he was on probation for an assault charge, which included conditions that he was not to consume alcohol, and served several months on a probation violation.

O’Connor said Cousins’ mother addressed the court on Tuesday, and that Tardiff apologized when he appeared in court.

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