The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 16, 2012

Prison time looms for DUI offender

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

MIDDLEBURG — A repeat offender with six prior drunken driving convictions pleaded guilty Friday in Snyder County Court to a seventh DUI, reckless endangerment and hit-and-run for crashing into a Salem Road home occupied by five people in October 2011.

Kermit Kratzer, 55, of Kratzer Road, Middleburg, was set to take the case before a jury, but pleaded guilty at the last minute and avoided trial.

District Attorney Michael Piecuch expects Kratzer will receive a 16-month to 42-month state prison sentence when the penalty is imposed within a few months by Senior Judge Louise O. Knight.

While the plea resolves the case, neither Piecuch or Philip and Beth Gesumaria — who were inside their home when Kratzer crashed into their first-floor bedroom on Oct. 1 and left car parts strewn across the room — are pleased with the results.

Though Kratzer has six prior DUI convictions dating back to 1978, the last one took place in 1999. Under state law, penalties for DUIs are enhanced only when they occur within a 10-year period.

“The problem is we have a serial drunk driver who’s treated as if it’s his first offense. By a miracle, he didn’t kill someone,” Piecuch said. “This was his seventh DUI in his lifetime, but his first for sentencing purposes.”

The statutory maximum for a first offense DUI is six months in jail.

The only reason Kratzer’s guilty plea will land him in state prison is because he struck the Gesumaria’s home while she and her husband and three children were inside.