Jacob Carlton, seen in 2019 with attorney Paul Corey in 8th District Court in Lewiston, was sentenced Tuesday to eight years and probation for a 2019 crash that injured two motorcyclists. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

AUBURN — A Jay man who was driving a car in the oncoming lane of traffic on Route 4 in Turner last year when it struck two motorcycles, significantly injuring a rider, was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison for causing what the judge termed a “horrific” crash.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Valerie Stanfill suspended all of that sentence except for 18 months, plus four years of probation.

Jacob Carlton, 33, pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, both felonies.

Lesley Adams, the wife of one of the victims in the crash, read a letter to the judge by videoconference, in which she recounted the litany of injuries sustained by Michael Adams, who had been the lead rider of a group of motorcyclists on May 11, 2019, “the day our lives changed forever.”

As a result of the crash, she read, Adams’ right leg was amputated, both of his femurs snapped, his right elbow was fused together after it was shattered, rendering him unable to continue to be right-handed. He underwent a craniotomy in which his skull was opened because of pressure from multiple facial fractures and a metal plate was inserted in his left eye socket, she said.

He spent more than a month in the intensive care unit and seven months in hospitals and a rehabilitation facility. He underwent “many, many surgeries,” two of them in Boston.

He and his wife were forced to move out of their home because it couldn’t be made fully accessible; neither could one of their vehicles. They moved in with her mother and haven’t been able secure their own home because Lesley Adams had to stop working to take care of her husband.

They noted sometimes they feel like they just exist in the world, not having any purpose and feeling hopeless.

Speaking to Carlton, she said tearfully, “You get jail time and probation, but that is nothing like what you have done to us.”

She said her husband is a different person because of the crash. He’s learning how to walk again. His brain injury has changed him too, she said.

“He struggles to say what he wants to say. Sometimes it doesn’t come out the way he wants it to and he gets extremely frustrated. He tells me he’s tired of being in pain and just wants to be able to get up and do the things he used to do.”

The May 2019 crash occurred at about 4 p.m. on Route 4 in Turner. Adams and the other motorcyclists were northbound in staggered formation; Carlton was southbound, driving a 1999 Toyota Camry.

The roadway was straight and visibility was good.

According to witnesses, Carlton had been driving erratically and tailgating a car, which pulled over to let him pass. He crossed the centerline, while speeding, requiring an oncoming motorcycle to take evasive action, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mador told the judge.

Witnesses told police that Carlton continued southbound on Route 4, was in the northbound lane where the car he was driving weaved, then collided with two motorcycles that were riding as part of a group. Adams had been in the lead, his wife riding behind.

The car driven by Carlton ended up in the ditch of the northbound lane, facing southbound, Mador said. There was significant damage to the car’s front passenger side, the front wheel folded under the car and what appeared to be blood smeared on the car.

Had it not been for the quick thinking of one of  the riders, who applied a belt as a tourniquet on Adams’ leg wound, “He very likely would have bled out and died at the scene,” Mador said.

Police estimated Carlton was traveling at more than 60 mph after the car made impact with the lead motorcycle. The motorcycles were estimated to be moving at about 40 mph in the 55 mph zone.

Carlton had taken no evasive action to avoid the crash, the accident reconstructionist determined.

Lesley Adams said she saw the oncoming car, saw her husband try to swerve to avoid it, then, in slow motion, after the impact, watched as her husband smashed into the car’s windshield.

Police blamed fatigue and failure to maintain his lane for the crash.

Analysis of Carlton’s blood showed traces of cocaine, morphine, fentanyl and heroin.

A second motorcyclist sustained a concussion and shoulder injuries for which he was treated at a nearby hospital, Mador said.

Defense attorney James Howaniec told the judge he had discussed with Carlton whether the case was a civil or criminal matter, but the two concluded that the existence of “compelling evidence” favoring the prosecution’s case created a “substantial likelihood” that Carlton could be convicted of at least some of the charges had the case gone to trial.

“We think that this is a resolution that’s in his best interest,” Howaniec said. He said Carlton has a substantial history of illegal drug use.

Justice Stanfill ordered Carlton to pay $6,617.92 in restitution. After his release, he must have no contact with the victims, not have alcohol, illegal drugs or marijuana for which he can be searched and tested at random. He’ll have to be evaluated for substance abuse and undergo counseling and treatment if needed. He won’t be allowed to operate a motor vehicle while he’s on probation.

Howaniec said it will be difficult for his client to find a job that will pay enough, given his drug history and felony conviction.

Carlton said his “words can’t fix anything,” adding, “All I can say is I’m truly sorry for the pain that I’ve caused.”

Justice Stanfill said, “This is very difficult because there really is no way to compensate or to account for what has happened to Lesley and Michael Adams and the other people involved in this case.”

She called Adams’ physical injuries “horrific,” but said the harm goes far beyond that to include, “emotional, mental, psychological, even as physical injuries may heal.”

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