An Afghan War combat veteran and U.S. Army recruiter will spend six years in state prison after being sentenced Friday for that killed one man and injured two others.
Army Sgt. Rene Berben, 26, of Deptford, admitted to being more than four times over the legal limit when he crashed his pickup into a Nissan sedan on Route 41 in Deptford on March 19, 2011, killing Runnemede resident Steven Kennedy, 29.
Kennedy was acting as a designated driver at the time of the crash for his two passengers, Elisha Bailey, 52, and Dwayne Pettit, 28, according to his father, Bill Kennedy, who spoke at the sentencing.
“We have a lifetime of sorrow without Steve,” Bill Kennedy said.
About a dozen members of Kennedy’s family, many of them wearing T-shirts memorializing Steven Kennedy, attended the sentencing, which saw a contrite Berben apologize for his actions that night.
Berben said he consumed at least 10 drinks at Taylor’s Bar in Williamstown before the crash, leading to a blood-alcohol level of 0.342, slightly more than four times the legal limit of 0.08 in New Jersey.
In May, to second-degree vehicular homicide, third-degree assault by auto for injuring Bailey and Pettit and driving while intoxicated.
Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson imposed the six-year sentence recommended by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office in the plea deal, and also imposed a concurrent 365-day prison sentence for assault by auto as well as a $300 drunk-driver fine. Berben will serve a seven-month driver’s license suspension after being released from prison.
Berben will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence—just over five years—before being eligible for parole. He’s currently in the process of being discharged from the Army.