A Deptford military veteran pleaded guilty to multiple charges Monday, and now faces up to six years in state prison for driving drunk at more than four times the legal limit and killing a Runnemede resident in .
Rene Berben, 26, accepted a plea agreement in exchange for admitting guilt to second-degree vehicular homicide, third-degree assault by auto and driving under the influence in connection with a two-vehicle crash on March 19, 2011, that killed Steven Kennedy, 29, and injured two passengers in Kennedy's car.
The accident came after Berben, an Army sergeant who is being discharged, said he had more than 10 drinks at Taylor's bar in Williamstown, and was on his way back from the bar when the crash happened near the K-Mart on Route 41.
He admitted turning left as Kennedy and his passengers, Elisha Bailey, 52, and Dwayne Pettit, 28, both of Glassboro, were heading south on Route 41, slamming his Ford pickup into Kennedy's Nissan sedan. Berben's blood-alcohol level was 0.342 at the time.
Pettit and Bailey were injured in the crash, and Pettit's injuries required surgery and hospitalization.
“This is another senseless tragedy that could easily have been avoided by not getting behind the wheel or by calling a friend or taxi to come pick you up,” said Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton.
In exchange for the plea, assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Dana Anton will recommend that Berben be sentenced to six years in state prison, with no parole eligibility for just over five years. He'll also serve a concurrent 365-day sentence for assault and, as a first-time drunken driver, will lose his license for seven months and face a $300 drunk-driving fine.
Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson scheduled a July 13 for Berben, who has been jailed in default of bail since the crash.